Capacity building versus hand-holding: how to avoid dependency syndrome

Capacity building has the power to transform organisations into stronger and more resilient service providers. However, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between being supportive and inadvertently making yourself indispensable. By Sibongile Ndaba, Business Development Lead, Zambia One of the major impediments to improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is low capacity […]


This publication presents the results of baseline urban WASH sector functionality assessments in WSUP’s six programme countries. We begin by outlining the rationale and process for creating a framework, the methodology and results from the baseline assessments, and concluding it by exploring potential applications of the framework.

WSUP’s decision to develop a Sector Functionality Framework occurred in parallel with a wider shift towards system strengthening in the global WASH sector: away from a narrow focus on building taps and toilets, and towards an understanding of water and sanitation as a service, whose effectiveness depends on the wider enabling environment.

Download the summary poster.

WSUP at the UNC Water & Health Conference, 2018

Next week, WSUP will be discussing inclusive citywide sanitation, designing practice-relevant WASH research, and how to support the development of sanitation businesses at the Water & Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy, at the University of North Carolina. The Water & Health Conference will take place from 29 October – 2 November, exploring global issues […]


Keep your hands clean! Preventing diseases, saving lives

The practice of handwashing with soap is a vital habit; it prevents diseases and saves lives. In the cities where WSUP works, it is not uncommon to have just one functioning toilet for every 300 children. And cramped urban schools can be a focal point of disease. Handwashing with soap is therefore a key way […]


This Practice Note outlines the development of a toilet database to support sanitation business development and public health monitoring in Lusaka.

Currently being tested in the peri-urban area (PUA) of Kanyama, the electronic database enables information on the ownership, location, quality and emptying history of local pit latrines and septic tanks to be stored in one place.

Blog: November 2017 – Innovations to combat the spread of cholera in cities

Lead author: IMC Worldwide.

The overall aim of the project is to respond to the Government of Ghana’s interest to establish a National Sanitation Authority (NSA) to prioritise sanitation service delivery and achieve Ghana’s commitment to SDG Goal 6. The Ministry of Sanitation & Water Resources (MSWR) has requested the Urban Sanitation Research Initiative in Ghana to undertake a policy research project to assist in decision-making around the setup of the proposed NSA. The specific objective of the assignment is to provide technical support to the MSWR and other key stakeholders to help decide upon the role/function and structure of the proposed NSA, and its relationship with other institutions.

The decision-making process about the roles and responsibilities of the NSA and the institutional structure is informed by an international review and assessment of the institutional arrangements for the sanitation sector in the following fifteen countries. The aim is to assess how effective these institutional models are and consider their viability and appropriateness within the context for the expectations from existing Ghanaian authorities, utilities, NGOs and civil society.

Africa: Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
South America and Asia: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam.

This report presents the findings from these assessments on the assumption that one, or a combination of these examples, is likely to provide the basis for the model to be adopted in Ghana.

Towards citywide sanitation in Lusaka

Lusaka has made huge strides in introducing faecal sludge management (FSM) services for low-income consumers, particularly thanks to the efforts of the city’s utility, Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC).

WSUP has worked closely with Lusaka’s water and sanitation stakeholders, including LWSC and Lusaka City Council (LCC), for a number of years. In particular, LWSC and WSUP have worked together to provide improved on-site sanitation facilities and FSM services to lower-income peri-urban areas (PUAs) of Lusaka.

Thanks to funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (among others), LWSC has been able to improve sanitation access in a number of PUAs with WSUP’s support, using context-specific service delivery models, tools and guidelines that have contributed to the strengthening of the urban sanitation sector as a whole.

The advent of the multi-million-dollar Lusaka Sanitation Program (LSP), led and implemented by LWSC and funded by international donors such as the World Bank and African Development Bank, provides an opportunity to consolidate and scale up the positive FSM pilots and small-scale projects in operation across Lusaka.

This publication examines sanitation and FSM in Lusaka as the LSP begins, and how LWSC and WSUP’s experiences in the city so far are contributing to the LSP as Lusaka moves towards citywide improved on-site sanitation and FSM service provision.

Pathogen pathways and urban planning

Improving public health is one of the primary reasons for investing in sanitation infrastructure like sewer networks or sludge treatment plants. This makes sense: minimising contact with faeces almost certainly means that fewer people will get sick from diseases like diarrhoea or cholera. Tools such as Shit Flow Diagrams provide an overview of a city’s […]


Creating a methodology so city-level sanitation investment decisions can be supported by a better understanding of pathogen flows

This Policy Brief summarises an initial research study which developed a conceptual model of faecal pathogen pathways in urban environments.

The proposed model uses a “source-pathway-receptor” approach: it considers release of pathogens into the environment, transport in the environment, and eventual human exposure.

The model can potentially provide a framework for comparing the relative impacts of different sanitation options on health; the next step should be to test the approach in a real city.

This research was led by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). See open access: Mills, F., Willetts, J., Petterson, S., Mitchell, C. and Norman, G. 2018 ‘Faecal pathogen flows and their public health risks in urban environments: A proposed approach to inform sanitation planning’  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health http://www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph/  

Dhaka survey results now online

In many cities, there is a lack of good-quality data on WASH coverage levels in low-income communities. And that’s a problem if you’re trying to improve slum WASH in that city! So over the period 2017-2018, WSUP is carrying out citywide WASH surveys in at least one city in each country in which we have […]