Urban Institute is Awarded Research Grant to Promote Increased Finance for Sanitation for the Urban Poor

IDG News, January 2014 -More than one third of urban Africans live on less than $1.25 a day, in crowded slums, within and around large cities. Accessing basic services in these conditions is difficult and expensive, and sanitation services are among the hardest to come by. Left to their own devices, most households rely on simple pit latrines, or shared or public toilets, which are typically unconnected to the limited sewage network. Missing and unreliable water and sanitation services place a disproportionate burden on the urban poor in terms of disease; time spent queuing for water; the health impact of unsafe water and unsanitary conditions; and lost opportunities for schooling and employment.

While in most countries local governments are tasked with the development of sewerage systems and with the provision of sanitation services, initial evidence suggests that most local governments in Africa spend less than one percent of their resources on the provision of sanitation services to the urban poor. With support from Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor, the Urban Institute will implement a two-year study to analyze the state of urban sanitation in three African cities (Nakuru, Ga West, and Lusaka).

While previous studies have looked at consumers' willingness to pay for sanitation services and at the implications of different local funding instruments on taxpayers' willingness to pay for public services (e.g., funding sanitation from a surcharge on piped water versus funding from a property tax), our approach will primarily focus on identifying the individuals or entities in the target cities that make resource allocation decisions in support of urban sanitation, and on what basis. The ultimate goal of the study is to identify local advocacy practices; changes to local revenue structures; improved local public financial management practices; or other specific local government interventions that are able to increase the willingness of municipal leaders to invest more of their own resources in sanitation for the poor.

Working closely with both WSUP staff and local experts on sanitation finance and public advocacy in each of the three cities, UI will proposed a menu of interventions and advocacy strategies to urban sanitation champions in each city. Next, UI will monitor the advocacy efforts of local stakeholders over the course of a year, backstopping local champions as appropriate. At the end of the year of advocacy, UI will conduct a second round of stakeholder interviews in order to measure how perspectives and practices have changed, and whether the intervening advocacy efforts have had an impact on the propensity of local leaders to increase funding for pro-poor sanitation.