Support for Cyclone Freddy Affected Households in Malawi
From Friday, March 10, 2022 Malawi was hit by Cyclone Freddy, which has resulted to over 500 confirmed deaths in the country, loss of livestock and property. Cyclone Freddy was characterized by heavy rains, which led to flooding and mudslides, and storms, which destroyed homes and critical infrastructure.
The impact of this cyclone has been highly pronounced in Southern Malawi, especially in Blantyre City and the surrounding districts of Phalombe, Chikhwawa, Mulanje Thyolo, Chikwawa and Chiradzulu. Due to the flooding and mudslides, thousands of people have been rendered homeless and have sought shelter in camps. The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA) has reported that over 19,000 people are living as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) in camps that have been erected in the country. The country’s President has described the cyclone’s impact as a national tragedy and has declared a State of Disaster in the Southern Region of Malawi, effectively appealing for local and international support for the affected families. Until Friday, March 17, 2023, the number of households directly affected was more than 50,000
Meanwhile, site visits and media reports indicate that the IDPS are living in dire conditions characterised by poor sanitation and limited access to basic amenities including food and clothes in the camps. This situation is worrisome, especially considering Malawi is still facing a cholera outbreak that has so far claimed hundreds of lives. Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine by the Vibrio cholerae bacteria. There are fears that the poor sanitation and hygienic conditions in the camps can lead to an escalation in the number of Cholera cases, which could potentially put thousands of lives in danger.
Appeal for Support
Currently, IDPs are in need of relief items that would make their lives bearable in these hard times including food, clothes and potable water as well as hygiene products and sanitation. While there are a number of organisations that have moved in to assist with food supplies in camps, there has not been much support around improving access to better sanitation, water, hygiene, food and warmth. Further, due to limitations in resources, many of the IDPs may have to live in the camps for a long time as they have no means to move back to their former settlements that are now in ruins or have been completely razed down by the floods and mudslides. As such, some of them are in dire need of materials to repair their homes so that they are in a habitable state.
Relief project to secure lives and support households to recover from disasters
The Centre for Community Organisation and Development and its alliance partner the Federation of the Rural and Urban Poor (the Federation) – the Malawi alliance, intend to roll out a relief programme targeting IDPS who are currently living in camps across the region. In the short term, the alliance will support these camps with sanitation and hygiene solutions in an attempt to curtail any possibility of water-borne diseases and ensure that the IDPs have better access to health services.
The alliance intends to do this through the provision of water and sanitation solutions, including the construction of temporary sanitation facilities, and the provision of water treatment solutions and utensils. In addition, the alliance will also provide food rations. Currently, the supply of food rations is intermittent and some IDPs are reportedly sleeping on empty stomachs or scampering for whatever food is available.
Providing a platform for communities to tell their stories and set the rebuilding agenda
Community-led data collection after disasters is crucial for assessing the impact and identifying the needs of the affected population. In many cases, affected communities may not have the capacity to undertake such assignments due to a number of underlining factors. In this case, we want to use previous knowledge to provide training in data collection and analysis to the affected communities. The alliance will provide tools and equipment to aid data collection and analysis processes. These tools are in the form of cameras and GPS devices etc. The data collection process will employ participatory approaches by ensuring that the process has been consulted widely so that the voices of the voiceless are heard and their needs are included in the rebuilding process. This in turn will help in building trust and ensure that the data collected accurately reflects the experiences and perspectives of the entire community.
Support the rebuilding process
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, there has been extensive damage to community infrastructure, houses and WASH facilities. Other infrastructures such as power and communications are still down in many areas leaving communities in darkness. Rebuilding infrastructure such as homes, WASH facilities and roads is important for restoring normalcy to the lives of those affected by the disaster. The alliance’s plan is to recapitalise the Mchenga Urban Poor Fund to provide financial support for the rebuilding exercise; targeting the provision of houses, potable water and decent sanitation through ecological sanitation toilets.
Additionally, Cyclone Freddy will have a significant impact on the local economy. Therefore, the alliance intends to support economic recovery by helping individual households and the community to rebuild their economic lives. This will involve providing start-ups for small businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as creating jobs – through reconstruction jobs, and providing training and education opportunities.
Provide mental health support
This disaster has had a significant impact on mental health and well-being of the affected population – including children that have seen the government extending the suspension of schools until March 31, when the second term was scheduled to end. Schools have been suspended as about 230 schools have been turned into holding camps for IDPs. Thus, providing access to mental health support services, in this case, will help individuals and communities cope with the trauma of the event.
As an exit strategy, the alliance would also want to champion dialogue with authorities and other stakeholders on effective ways of managing these disasters as well as recommending measures that would reduce the vulnerability of the households when such disasters have stricken. Further, we will deploy our KYC.TV Malawi Team to document the situation in the City to champion solutions that address the vulnerabilities of the households in the medium and long terms.
Community Based Organisations are Key to Covid-19 Response
In this article, which originally appeared on the Sanitation & Water for All website, one of SDI’s co-founders and former chair of the SDI Board, Sheela Patel, highlights some of the notable responses to the Covid-19 pandemic – and resulting lockdowns – by SDI-affiliated federations of the urban poor.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the two major guidelines are practicing social distancing and washing your hands with soap or use sanitizers. This directive could come across as an additional precautionary step in the lives of many. However, for several communities (especially those living in informal settlements) in the developing countries, these directives are challenging to follow.
We spoke to Shamim Banu Salim Sheikh, a member of Mahila Milan (a self-organized, decentralized collective of female) living in Mumbai slum about her community and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, “we try and tell other people that they should keep their hands clean, houses clean, don’t sneeze or cough in public places. But all these things are for rich people and not poor people like us. In this area most of the people have at least 7 to 8 members in their houses, how are you going to tell them they should not sit together or keep distance between each other?” Through a video message, Alice Wanini, a community health volunteer (CHV) in Mukuru Kwa Reuben slum in Nairobi, told SDI how difficult it is to encourage preventative measures such as social distancing and frequent handwashing in overcrowded slums, where 10 sqm shacks house families of ten or more and long lines at handwashing stations leave people frustrated.
This is the reality for almost 1 billion people living in informal settlements –between 30-70% of inhabitants in some cities–pandemics exacerbate the existing vulnerabilities, such as inequalities in access to water, sanitation and hygiene services, loss of livelihood for daily-wage earners, precarity of underlying conditions such as respiratory ailments, water-borne diseases, life-style diseases associated with poor nutrition and substance abuse. As COVID-19 cases spiked around the world, stringent lockdown measures were put in places, thereby making community leaders or community based organizations as the first responders. In Sierra Leone, Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP) and their support NGO, the Centre for Dialogue on Human Settlements and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA) has been involved in the fight against COVID-19 in their localities within Freetown Municipality, which is the epicenter of the pandemic. The prevention and mitigation response undertaken by the FEDURP are as follows:
- Development of case monitoring app (Freetown Informal Settlement Covid-19 Data – Fiscovidata) and mobilization of community volunteers to focus on the case and incident reporting,
- Development of sensitization messaging materials such as posters, handbills, and videos: FEDURP consulted various messaging materials developed by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. The contents of these materials were then customized to reflect the realities of slums and informal settlements. Engagement in community sensitization, through direct community outreach and using various social media platforms to share videos and radio discussion,
- Provision of veronica buckets (for hand washing) and face masks,
- Working closely with settlement-based local chiefs to enforce government regulations and practices,
- Engagement with state and local authorities to enhance government response to needs of informal settlements: Working with Freetown City Council to support a community kitchen targeting three extremely vulnerable communities targeting people with disabilities, the elderly, orphans, pregnant girls and female- headed households with multiple dependents.
In Malawi, 75% of the urban population live in informal settlements (National Statistical Office, 2018). The Malawi SDI Alliance has made the following progress in supporting informal settlements with information on COVID-19:
- All 35 federation groups in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu now have hand washing equipment. Cities were prioritized because that’s where the first cases were reported. Federation savings groups continue to meet and conduct their savings, loans and group entrepreneurial activities in compliance with government regulation.
- The Malawi Alliance worked with the Lilongwe District Health Office to spread Covid-19 awareness messages to 10 informal settlements in Lilongwe City (population roughly 30,000) using a public address system that can effectively reach large numbers of people.
- Community leaders from 24 informal settlements in Lilongwe City were capacitated with knowledge and skills on how to disseminate COVID-19 messages to their communities.
- Media efforts carried out by Malawi Know Your City TV team to raise awareness with youth, including the production of 6 short videos depicting how COVID-19 has affected the informal trader, the girl child, and other vulnerable groups in informal settlements.
Through this overarching narrative on community action during pandemics, I want to highlight that lockdown means local adaptation–community members and leaders are the first respondents. Yet, their contribution remains invisible and unspoken. These community leaders are most trusted and what they say is taken seriously by the people. Unfortunately, the government do not include their ideas, suggestions or solutions in planning and response. Unless there is a two-way trust between providers and affected communities, and the voices of the most marginalized are not heard, the crucial support and assistance in lockdown will not happen.
I cannot stress enough, when the nation-state puts people in lockdown, there is an urgent need to ensure that they have access to food items and basic care. People are ENTITLED to these basic services, showing “beneficiary” labelled photos of people receiving food is not acceptable. Informal settlements are not receiving the aggressive support that they need, especially, in bringing the livelihoods for informal dwellers and removal of past deficits like poor water and sanitation.
The SWA global partnership has a unique role in this crisis and for creating a post-COVID world, first, by mobilizing its partners, especially governments to take an urgent and much-needed action to provide water and sanitation services in both urban and rural areas. Secondly, using its convening power to strengthen in-country inclusive partnerships to enhance liaison between government and all the relevant key stakeholders, especially the community based organisations (CBOs). Not just during this crisis situation, but also ensuring that the voices of CBOs are also reflected in the advocacy plans of national CSO networks. We all need to keep reminding each other that public health emergencies, such as COVID-19 and gradually building disaster of climate change now demand that we BUILD BACK BETTER.
Zambian Federation & PPHPZ: Responses to COVID-19
On behalf of the Zambian Federation and People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia (PPHPZ) – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Zambia.The following is an account directly from the SDI affiliate in Zambia, alongside updates on the current work of the Zambian Federation & PPHPZ.
Approximately 40% (6 million) Zambians live in urban areas and 70% (4.2 million) of those living in urban areas live in the slums known as “compounds.” The spread of COVID-19 across the globe has been through human to human transmission of individuals traveling from country to country, thus, the misconception is that it is a disease that affects the ‘rich and privileged’. On the contrary, comparatively informal settlement dwellers face a much greater risk to Covid-19. Life in the slums (compounds) is characterized by poor quality housing and inadequate access to clean water and sanitation. If water is available, its either intermittent or of compromised quality. Streets are characterized by overcrowding, and poor planning, with electricity intermittently provided. Another obstacle is limited access to household and public sanitation – this service is crucial in combating the spread of disease such as COVID-19 pandemic. The absence of public toilets curtails and hinders efforts of fighting pandemics as fecal matter can spread diseases in the community.
In Zambia, cases of cholera outbreaks in informal settlements have ceased in the headlines with seasonal outbreaks on yearly basis becoming the norm. During epidemics, slum residents are more vulnerable to respiratory infections owing to the fact that people are overcrowded and congested in their communities & houses without proper ventilation fueling mass spreading of COVID-19. Poverty levels are exceptionally with cases of malnutrition exacerbating chronic infections despite widespread vaccinations and social sensitization programmes. The number of infections in these communities are always double than those in planned, affluent suburbs.
COVID-19 is an exceptionally dangerous due to the fact that it is highly infectious even in asymptomatic patients with no current vaccine or cure. While current statistics demonstrate that confirmed cases are low, with none confirmed cases in the compounds, the ravaging effect the virus would have in the slums would be devastating.
The global community of health experts have recommended three simple yet fundamental effective tools to combat the spread of the virus and these strategies need to be critically examined to check their efficacy. The Zambian government, in line with the advice from both local and international health experts have recommended the following:
Hand Washing and Sanitizing:
In the context of slums, hand washing can significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19; however, under the current circumstances, this tool will not work unless access to affordable or free water is provided in the informal settlements. In most settlements like Kanyama, the biggest settlement in Zambia, water is still intermittent, inadequate and expensive for the average employed resident. Currently a 20 litre container is pegged at 50 ngwee and on average a family needs at least 200 litres translating to 5 kwacha every day or 150 kwacha per month, a figure which is unaffordable by most residents, where water is also rationed. In George compound, water kiosks are opened at 6.00 – 10.00 and 17.00 to 18.00. To avoid any escalation, taps need to be opened at all times until the virus is defeated.
The situation is worsened by electricity cuts due to maintenance and load shedding and will further deteriorate due to loss of supply from independent suppliers for the next two weeks. Electricity is needed to pump water by water trusts who are charged with the supply of water as well as private borehole owners in most settlements. Without water, curbing the spread of the COVID-19 through hand washing is impossible. It is time that the Zambian government provides free water in each and every compound.
This strategy will save our government millions of kwachas while saving many lives. It is a travesty that utility companies like Lusaka Water & Sewerage have not yet been directed or capacitated to provide this essential service to the most vulnerable settlements. In the absence of free or affordable clean water, communities will either resort to shallow wells that are heavily contaminated or will opt to use water sparingly thereby not washing hands frequently.
Coupled with provision of free water, should be the provision of hand-washing stations at all public toilets, bus stations, and markets in congested homesteads. The biggest markets like Old Soweto in Lusaka, Masala Market in Ndola, and Chisokone Market in Kitwe should be immediately provided with hand washing facilities and sanitizing agents. Distribution of hand washing stations, sanitisers, soaps needs to be broad based and not simply through locally recognized structures like the Councilor’s Office and the Ward Development Committees. The challenge is bigger than these local structures, grassroots community associations, and savings schemes the likes of the Zambia Homeless and Poor People‘s, but the responsibility of the state. Federations and Cooperatives need to be engaged – involving grassroots associations and savings schemes at the local level is crucial.
Hand washing has been a privilege of medium to high income residents. To exacerbate the exclusion of the poor, almost every shop has quadrupled the price of hand sanitizers owing to the huge demand by those who can afford them. Efforts should be targeted at subsidizing the prices through the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. There is an opportunity to start working with community-based groups to make homemade sanitizers supporting livelihood initiatives in these troubled times.
Social distancing i.e. staying at home, closing schools, isolating the sick, keeping at least 1 meter apart, and avoiding hugging and shaking hands:
Social distancing is currently the least expensive and the most affordable tool to each and every individual; however, in mostly densely populated communities, it is almost unavoidable. Closing the markets and the shops could trigger serious financial security issues as people are likely to starve due to food shortages. Most residents cannot afford to buy food in advance, as they live hand to mouth. A lock down without the possibility of working will cause serious resistance from these vulnerable communities. This demands that people should continue trading but alongside serious protective mechanisms.
Wearing Protective Gear:
Face masks can assist in reducing infection rates of COVID-19 if they are available and affordable. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, face masks have significantly increased in price with poor people have been cut out off completely in accessing masks. An opportunity exists to work with grassroots community groups, savings schemes and cooperatives in the mass production of masks produced with chitenge materials. Government and cooperating partners should channel support to the grassroots to produce masks, as this will inevitably drastically reduce and eliminate the exaggerated prices currently prevailing in the market. A chitenge made mask can be washed and disinfected everyday ensuring that they are accessible to the masses, while providing a sustainable solution.
Overall, it can be seen that efforts to combat the virus should be broad based and all inclusive; organized grassroots associations & savings schemes ought to be at the center of fighting the pandemic, not just health workers or government alone. Any solution being proffered has to be within the reach of the most vulnerable. Water, as a matter of urgency needs to be provided for free by state, private sector and individuals who have their own boreholes. Let’s not make a mistake mistake of making community members mere beneficiaries and health workers and government are seen as the only actors in the fight.
Currently the Zambian Federation & PPHPZ is working closely with the Lusaka City Council & Ministry of Health. They have mobilised sed youth teams in creating COVID-19 related content (videos, posters, jingles, etc.) translated into local languages circulated on social media platforms, local radio stations to sensitize communities. Federation savings & youth members have been trained as hygiene stewards to champion community-led initiatives to educate and distribute hand sanitizers, masks, gloves and liquid soap. PPHPZ has identified local schools, churches and community halls as potential warehouses, distribution centers and spaces to accommodate infected people. The Lusaka Federation will use its Resource Centre in George Township for warehousing food and other essential materials.
Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.
Simplified Sewer System in Dar es Salaam
As of 2017, the Tanzanian Urban Poor Federation (TUPF) has organized 735 groups in 8 cities and towns. Community-led profiling in Dar es Salaam consistently identifies sanitation as a primary concern for informal settlement communities and the affordability of solutions as a principle barrier to scalable solutions. In 2013, the community in Vinguguti began to organize around this critical issue in an effort to find innovative sanitation solutions. Through a participatory design process that involved the whole community, a flexible sewer design emerged. Savings groups mobilized their members to contribute towards the costs of upgrading family toilets for connection to the micro-sewer.
To arrive at the design, the Vingunguti community together with the Tanzania SDI Alliance, Ardhi University, and the local municipality conducted a joint feasibility study. The gathering of various actors and organizations allowed for a constant exchange of ideas, knowledge, and planning strategies. The agreed upon technological approach uses pipes with a smaller diameter, an adjustment that allows them to be installed at a shallower depth and a flatter gradient than the conventional sewer system. This approach is far less labor intensive, disruptive, or expensive than conventional sewer systems. During the pilot phase, 230 people (44 households) were connected.
With the pilot phase complete, a strong demand from other households emerged. The municipality has recognized the simplified sewerage system as a viable option for the Kombo settlement area and officials at Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority are in agreement that communities within the simplified sewerage area should be charged a minimal tariff. This agreement must still be formalized with the Energy and Water Utility Regulatory Agency (EWURA). Community technicians have been equipped with skills related to trench excavation, installation of sewer pipes, and construction of manholes. In addition, communities have been trained in low-cost bio digester toilet construction and have begun upgrading or replacing their latrines. The utility company is providing oversight and quality assurance. The learnings from this project will feed into a planned World Bank investment in the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Corporation (DAWASCO) for decentralized wastewater treatments and simplified sewerage systems in the city.
The Tanzania slum dweller federation efforts contribute to improved city resilience by reducing human vulnerability via improved access to sanitation, building skills in construction and planning in urban poor communities, and demonstrating effective multi-stakeholder collaboration.
This post is part of a series of case studies from our 2017 Annual Report titled ‘The Road to Resilience.’ Emerging from the field of ecology, ‘resilience’ describes the capacity of a system to maintain or recover from disruption or disturbance. Cities are also complex systems and a resilience framework addresses the inter- connectedness of formal and informal city futures. Moreover, it enables a nuanced reflection on the nature of shocks and chronic stressors – recognising that the latter are particularly acute in slum dweller communities and that this critically undermines the entire city’s economic, social, political, and environmental resilience.As with personal resilience, city resilience demands awareness, acknowledgment of reality, and a capacity to move beyond reactivity to responses that are proactive, thoughtful, and beneficial to the whole. The most enlightened individuals and cities will be those that understand their responsibility to the most vulnerable and to the planet. Our 2017 Annual Report showcases some of SDI’s achievements over the past year on the road to resilience. Click here for the full report.
For a better Mumbai, fix the slums first
This article was first published in The Hindu.
The government has plenty of schemes for slum redevelopment, but most of these are on paper. Importantly, sanitation is not on the agenda.
I was all of 17 when I migrated to Mumbai in 1967 from Kolar, Karnataka. I didn’t have a purpose then; my only aim was to find bread. I often wondered why I moved to this city. When I look back, I can visualise how millions have the same problem: you don’t have anything, you look out for a metropolis, you land in Mumbai.
I would never have dreamt what Bombay meant. It was a culture shock at various levels. To begin with, I’d never heard the word ‘slum.’ Moreover, the language was alien, and we had open-air, ‘airconditioned’ toilets.
A week after I landed in the city, I ended up in the thickly-populated Janata Colony, Mankhurd. Conditions were pathetic. If I needed to use the public toilet, I would have to queue for nearly 20 minutes. So I would end up squatting wherever I would find place.
I was in a slum, but I had no home. In fact, I had zero liabilities and assets, no roof over my head, no roots. I would sleep anywhere.
One of the good things about a slum is that no one ever chases you away from their doorstep. In the day, I would mark out a veranda where I could lay my head at night. I would pick up saris hung out to dry and use them as blankets. In the morning, I would go to the public tap, remove my clothes, bathe, dry myself with the same set of clothes and carry on with the rest of my day.
The questions in my head were ceaseless: how did I fall from the frying pan into the fire? For the first time ever, I saw pavement dwellers. Why did we all have to live like animals? I gradually learnt about eviction and demolition. And then about homelessness. Where could one live? I figured there wasn’t much of a choice.
My journey had begun; I needed to do something about all this. From then on, I have been organising people, taking up issues of slum sanitation, eviction and demolition, and trying to find solutions.
It’s important for me — for all of us — to talk about our slums. There is an entire section of society living in deplorable conditions, because of which the city’s health and economy are being dragged down.
The way things are, there is no collective vision; no rules either. Nearly 60 per cent of Mumbai lives in slums, but a good chunk of the municipal corporation’s agenda is devoted to gardens, roads, parking and so on; the slums don’t feature. In our lopsided system of political representation, slum dwellers have been relegated to a vote bank. They are patronised, and encouraged to live in deprivation.
Look at Dharavi, for instance. The government has no policy for Asia’s largest slum. In the past 15 years, there has been no development in terms of roads, drains, toilets, or common areas. The main road has seen encroachments, encouraged by a former politician.
Clean the city, build toilets
Mumbai lets off a big stench. People call it Slumbay. What are the reasons? Poor sanitation and environment, contaminated drinking water and crowded conditions.
Even today, 40 per cent of people in Mumbai don’t have access to a toilet. In Dharavi, 33–35 per cent of people live in 60-sq-ft areas. We’re talking about five-member families living in that space. How can you think of having individual toilets there? The airport slum doesn’t have a single toilet. How long will this continue?
Mumbai needs sanitation that is not dependent on the sewer system alone. Sewerage systems require a capital cost, which the government cannot afford. And the rehabilitation of people will cost them 100 times more than their investment in sewerage lines. Nearly 65 per cent of Dharavi is not covered by a sewer system. To do so, you need to rehabilitate 80 per cent of the people living here.
Everyone is talking about Swachh Bharat, but how many toilets have been constructed in slums under this project? The government could have claimed it had cleaned Mumbai, so working with smaller cities would be relatively easier. You have to show what you have done in a difficult situation first.
Our sanitation needs to be customised to our living and weather conditions. Unlike the West, we cannot afford individual toilets or sewer lines.
We have to work towards providing collective, shared and community toilets. We can achieve two agendas at one go: if the municipality invests money in a slum (in the form of toilets) it cannot demolish it.
The main focus should be on how to clean the city. Without getting into the politics of it, we need to ask if a mechanism has been created for the purpose. Even after we have created wards, there is nothing to show on the ground. Where and how is the money being used?
A city like Mumbai should have had an IAS officer as the head of sanitation. Every area needs a dedicated sanitary inspector, with the additional role of mapping the area and reporting to the higher authority.
In the 80s, there were around 600 slum pockets in the city. Now it has gone up to 3,000.
No one comes to Mumbai for the pleasure of getting a house in a slum. They are in tough situations, therefore they migrate. We need to address the needs of those already living in slums by giving them better housing. We need to do away with the dehumanised category of ‘shanty’.
Former Municipal Commissioner S.S. Tinaikar used to say, “Mumbai has so much land, you can arrange to have another city like it.” Land needs to be given to the people, but not for free.
The Development Plan outlines a clear policy of homes for the dishoused. There is also a pavement policy, which former Secretary, Special Projects, Sanjay Ubale and I hammered into shape. The subsequent Government Resolution said all pavement dwellers are eligible for a house, just like slum dwellers. I was able to secure 4,710 sq.m. land for rehabilitation in Mankhurd.
There are policies, but the government is sleeping on them, while the people don’t have anyone to organise them into agitating for their due.
The government often says it can’t give land because it is reserved. So I tell people, let every slum- or pavement-dweller identify 10-15 pieces of land. If they say it is reserved for a university, ask for a third, a fourth, and so on. After 220 land reservations, can they still say no? There is land, only the will is missing.
Over a decade ago, I was working with the MMRDA on the Mumbai Urban Transport Project-II. I told the Sukhtankar Committee that the government could float a tender asking for free housing on the land in the project. The first housing scheme was initiated by us. All 20,000-30,000 families have been rehabilitated on it. That means the MMRDA has the land and houses.
The Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) has failed because of corruption and mismanagement; it has become a money-making mission for the government.
The first question a councillor asks these days is, “Isme mera kya hai? [What’s in it for me?]” You have 365 cooperative housing societies built under the SRA, but most of the residents have had to dedicate 20 per cent extra, or out-of-pocket expenses, like paying someone to approve a document, an extension, or adding a name to a registration. That’s why these societies have taken in only 150 families.
In an SRA house, you are charged more than five times what you pay in a slum for water. Do you expect a rehabilitated person can pay that much? An SRA home, then, is not affordable. Nobody is going into why the SRA scheme hasn’t picked up in Mumbai, and why there are so many slums. They have set 269 sq.ft. as the base under the SRA, and 300 sq.ft. in Dharavi. But a political party wants 400 sq.ft. Once this is done, airport slum dwellers will demand the same. This doesn’t just involve finding land; it’s also a question of rehabilitation.
The government is doing nothing for affordable housing, which in any case costs Rs. 5 lakh and above. Besides, most ‘affordable’ homes are outside the city, or in far-flung areas; this requires the creation of a transportation network.
Our politicians and bureaucrats have learnt nothing from the mistakes of the SRA or rehabilitation over the past 35 years. Therefore, we live with myths like ‘there is no land’. To begin with, slums are on the ground level. In urban India, you cannot afford to live in a ground-floor structure, simply because the land cost is so high. You compensate for that by getting into an SRA house. But if you want to live here, you have to change your living pattern. You live without a toilet for years; you don’t talk about it.
I’m not asking everyone to go to an SRA accommodation. Regularise or recognise a slum and maintain a standard; instead of a corrupt SRA society, slums could be more organised. We also need a housing guideline.
Women must be at the centre
Local residents, particularly women, need more representation in decision-making. For every issue, be it toilets, housing or water, women are worst affected. A man can meet his needs outside the home: he can use the toilet in his factory, or a public toilet. In most cases, women are tied to the home; their representation is token.
Use NGOs better
Today, you have more than 6,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) registered with the Charity Commissioner. Every ward could be allotted 10 to 15 NGOs for specific issues of their choice; this will fix responsibility. The government could create that kind of flexibility, by inviting a ward’s prominent NGOs to a meeting and assigning them duties. A coordinating body could be responsible for their functioning.
In other words, identify the issue, then create a system and then monitor it, all within a budget.
NGOs, on their part, need to raise the issue of sanitation in their wards. For now, they are just “talking revolutionaries” who often don’t get down to hard work.
The government should take these issues to the people, create forums where debate can happen without fear of reprisal being targeted. Right now, there is a disconnect between the grassroots and the policy-makers.
What you see today is the result of the administration not looking after the city. Mumbai is actually well organised, with every inch of land governed by the administration. They ought to be more in control of encroachment though.
There is a Hindi saying: ‘Billi ki nazar chichde mein rehti hai [The cat always looks for the cream]’. Similarly, the politician always looks at how many votes he can garner in an area. He never looks at problems like housing or a poor living environment.
About the author
Jockin Arputham has worked for more than 40 years in India’s slums, building representative organisations to partner with governments and international agencies for the betterment of urban living. He is president of National Slum Dwellers Federation, which he founded in the 1970s, and of Slum Dwellers International, which networks slum dwellers from over 20 countries. Arputham received the Ramon
He was awarded the Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 2000.
Tackling the Challenge of Sanitation in South Africa
Cross posted from the SA SDI Alliance website
By Ava Rose Hoffman (on behalf of CORC)
In this blog, Mzwanele Zulu—National Informal Settlement Network (ISN) Coordinator—discusses the process of identifying community priorities and engaging with local government to construct the Midrand Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) Facility, which will become operational in the coming weeks.
Midrand is an informal settlement located in northwestern Port Elizabeth, situated in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality. The settlement was formed around 2007-2008, when backyarders and shack dwellers from nearby areas began squatting on the land—an open space owned by the municipality. Mzwanele describes that the situation in Midrand was “very destitute” given the high unemployment and crime rates. Nonetheless, Midrand’s favourable location provided an excellent opportunity for carrying out in-situ upgrading. Mzwanele describes:
They are close to transport and they are not far from the city as well. People do not want to go to the peripheries—they’re always being chased away from the cities. They want to be developed where they are so they are able to access employment opportunities and walk to workplaces and places that they’re looking for jobs. So we’re hoping that working closely with the municipality will create an opportunity for them to remain there.
When the ISN began engaging with Midrand, the settlement was not recognised on the Municipality’s informal settlement database and as such, the settlement completely lacked basic public services. At that point in time, in the absence of services provided by the Municipality, the ISN began mobilising the community. Mzwanele describes:
When we identified the settlement, there was no water, no electricity, no toilet facilities… When we started, I think 7 years ago, engaging with Midrand and with other communities in the Eastern Cape Region—in particular in Nelson Mandela Metro—we started talking about the challenges that communities are facing… We believe in people helping themselves. We started capacitating leaders to engage and talk about their challenges, and of course we did enumerations and profiled the settlement.
Through the profiling and enumeration process in Midrand, it became clear that the principal challenge facing the settlement was sanitation. Bringing the WaSH facility to fruition began with the process of savings—community contributions that are applied toward the total cost of the project. Mzwanele recounts:
The community was very receptive to the idea of saving—they are continuously saving. They are seeing value in what we are doing through this process. They started saving and it took about four to five years to be able to get a buy-in from the municipality. We’ve been engaging with the municipality—trying to convince them to assist us in working together and ensuring that these people will be improving their conditions with the support of the Municipality. So, that’s how this process unfolded in the beginning.
During these early stages of engagement between the community, the ISN and the Municipality, Mzwanele describes that “the Municipality was shocked to hear about Midrand—they didn’t know about it—and they started by putting one tap for the community.” The installation of the water tap, connected to the public municipal system, marked significant progress in alerting the Municipality about Midrand’s needs and getting local government “on board” with the upgrading process. After the installation of the water tap, replacing bucket and pit toilets with proper flush toilets constituted the next item on the community’s upgrading agenda.As such, the design for the WaSH facility was developed by the community with technical support from iKhayalami building team who project managed the building of the facility by working closely with community members who were employed through the project and who also received training from the iKhayalami team. The first phase was funded by the SHARE project through iKhayalami; the second phase will be funded by the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC). The facility consists of ten flush toilets, wash basin facilities for doing laundry, and a caretaker room where an upkeep employee will store amenities such as soap and toilet paper. Mzwanele describes that for the time being, the facility does not include showers: “This is setting a precedent. If in the future, we need to do it, we can consider putting in showers as well.”
The facility will become operational in a few weeks once the municipality finalises issues relating to supply chain management and connects the facility to the bulk electricity and waste systems. Mzwanele describes that engaging with Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality was never a problem, but in the past, implementing projects proved to be a difficult and often lengthy process: “They were always promising that things would happen, but they were taking a long time.” The finalization of the facility—which will significantly improve sanitation conditions in Midrand—marks a breakthrough in the relationship between the community of Midrand, the ISN, and the Municipality. Mzwanele describes:
We started this process not knowing if either the mayor or senior officials of the Municipality would be happy with the kind of approach that we are doing with the community. But as we speak, we are working towards signing a Memorandum of Understanding [with the Municipality]. It’s not an easy thing—it takes time—and of course, the politicisation of our program is one of the key challenges that we are facing. Some of the people in the Municipality were doubting us, as the Alliance—that we perhaps belonged to a political party. But in the end, everyone understood that we are just helping those that are ready to help ourselves and that we are trying to organise and prepare communities that are ready for upgrading and development.
Mzwanele suggests that the implementation of the Midrand WaSH facility has paved the way for scaling up in-situ upgrading throughout the municipality and beyond, in other municipalities—however, change must be achieved incrementally, beginning at the community level:
At the moment, our key objective is to set a precedent with this one project so that they are able to see that we are not just talking. We are having some things on the ground that are happening so they can be able to see the improvement of services being done at the community level. Because if these people are able to use flush toilets, then of course, we’ll be talking about electrification of these settlements and other services that are required for the community. The other challenge that the community is facing—it’s a common problem nationally, of course: housing. They are living in wooden structures, plastic structures, but what else can they do? Whilst they are waiting for housing from government, they are living there. They’ve proposed with us that they would like to re-block their settlement. That means that they need to improve their top structures. Working very closely with the municipality, we will be able to bring more innovation.
Innovative Communal Sanitation Models for the Urban Poor: Lessons from Uganda
This paper describes the construction and management processes related to two toilet blocks in Uganda, one in Jinja and one in Kampala. Designs, financial models and insights into the process and challenges faced are presented and reflected on. Discussions about scaling up sanitation provision through these models are also tabled. To strengthen their planning processes, the Ugandan federation sought to draw on other community driven processes in India and Malawi. With divergent contexts, especially in terms of density, lessons were adapted to local conditions.
Through unpacking these experiences the paper draws attention to a number of key points. Firstly it argues that organised communities have the potential to develop functional and sustainable systems for the planning, construction and management of communal toilet blocks. Secondly, how shared learning, practical experience and exchanges driven by communities assisted in refining the sanitation systems and technologies piloted and thirdly the value, especially in terms of scale and leverage of including City Authorities in the provision of communal sanitation. A fourth key point, interwoven across discussions, relates to the financial planning, costing and affordability of the sanitation options piloted. Understanding the seed capital investments needed and various options for cost recovery is vital in assessing the affordability and scalability of pilots1.
The paper mixes one of the co-author’s reflections (written in first person) with descriptions and analysis of the sanitation projects supported. This narrative method is deployed to emphasise the collegiate manner in which learning takes place across a country-spanning network of urban poor communities.
To read the full report, click here.
Achieving Universal Sanitation: Sharing the Experience of the SDI Affiliate in Blantyre, Malawi
By Diana Mitlin, IIED and Mercy Kamwanja, CCODE (Malawi)
Achieving universal access to sanitation is going to take a lot. In the urban context, high residential densities and extremely low incomes add to the challenge. What is already evident is that new approaches will be required, and that partnership between organised communities and their local governments is going to be key. An SDI team from Malawi came to World Water Week in Stockholm to present their work on sanitation in the city of Blantyre, and share their own contribution to this global challenge. Mphatso Njunga is a national leader for the Malawi Federation of the Rural and Urban Poor (Federation), Emmanuel Kanjunjunju is Director of Health and Social Services in the City, Mercy Kamwanja is Policy and Advocacy Manager for CCODE. Local elections were held in May 2014 with a return to local democracy, and 23 new councillors have joined the seven MPs to represent the residents of Blantyre City.
Documenting Living Conditions in Informal Settlements
A critical first step is documenting the scale of the problem. This knowledge is valued both by local government and communities themselves. The Federation has currently identified and profiled 41 informal settlements within Blantyre. These neighbourhoods have been identified both by Federation members, and traditional chiefs who have had a very significant role in local government prior to May (there were no councillors for several years). The Federation has developed close links to these traditional chiefs particularly through their work on water and sanitation. The local authority itself recognises 21 informal settlements.
The City Council recognizes the very significant contribution that groups within informal settlements are making to the City. to enhance this work and to address their own council responsibilities, an informal settlement Unit has been established.
Community development strategies (CDSs) have been completed in eight informal settlements following Federation information gathering. Local residents have been mobilized by settlement profiling and these strategies include of the collective priorities of the settlement. These organized communities hope that their strategies will direct development assistance.
As the Federation has worked with larger and numbers of people as well as more diverse communities, they decided that they should change their name from the Malawi Homeless People’s Federation to the Malawi Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor. This name change is to ensure that all people are comfortable with their participation and do not feel unable to join because they are not “homeless”.
Government Funding for Upgrading Informal Settlements
The annual budget for Blantyre City Council is approximately $10 million. There is no fixed amount for investment in informal settlements but the Council recognises that this is where there is the greatest need as 75% of the population stay. Two years ago, the Council began a participatory process whereby they asked organized communities to sit with the CEO and the directors of departments and discuss Council investment priorities. Mphatso Njunga (Federation leader) explained “The first year, we went there and they were telling us what has been done. This year it was different. Community leaders were asking council about where they get the money.” The third year of this participatory budget will begin in January 2015 for the financial year that begins in July 2015. This year the 23 newly elected councillors will also be a part of the budget negotiations.
In addition the funds that the Council have to invest, there are also monies available through the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) that are allocated to the seven MPs that represent Blantyre’s population. Approximately $16, 500 is given to each MP for local priorities. These monies are accounted for through the local authority. Previously there has not been any coordination of investments by the local authority but this is now being discussed.
The Sanitation Challenge
The challenge remains immense. There are an estimated 120,000 households living in the city of which 90, 000 live in areas experiencing poor sanitation, in informal settlements. The Council estimates that somewhere between 35,000 to 75,000 households are in need of toilets as they either have no provision, or their current provision is inadequate for dense urban neighbourhoods. One problem that is rarely acknowledged is that about 70,000 households are using VIPs and traditional pit latrines. When pits are full they are not emptied but are closed and another one constructed. However, as shallow wells are a major source of water the potential health risks are considerable.
Council investment capital is critical to achieving scale because significant numbers lack the income needed. Mphatso Njunga estimates that 30 per cent of Federation members do not have any income to pay for sanitation investments. In this context assessing strategies that offer universal access is a key challenge.
The Federation savings schemes have supported almost 700 to invest in eco-sanitation with an on average three families sharing these facilities. Each eco-san unit costs about $300. This scale of investments shows what is possible – and also that much more needs to be done. The Federation have been working across the city to encourage investment in sanitation. Working closely with the local chiefs, they have been able to persuade them to be the first to apply for loans (for eco-sanitation toilets with bathrooms) and this has encouraged the uptake.
Activities have included cleaning of the neighbourhoods. Some of the worst conditions in the city were in Ntopwa but after the mobilization of residents by the Federation this settlement is now a learning centre showing what can be done if people are organized.
New Sanitation Options
In their efforts to expand options and potentially reduce costs and increase accessibility, the Alliance has been exploring new approaches. A new precedent is sanitation with decentralized waste water treatment. In Bangwe. The Federation have constructed 52 dwellings in a lower-middle income neighbourhood that will provide rental housing – and have used this opportunity to experiment with this new technology for Blantyre. The development is now complete and people will begin occupying these houses in the next few weeks. Now the Federation members will come to see the technology and consider its affordability. They will also have the chance to think through how it might be work within their own informal settlements, if re-blocking will be required, and where (and sometimes if) spare ground might be available for the treatment ponds.
The Federation are also about to increase their investments in public toilets. Their public toilet in Chemusa is working very well. This is a public eco-sanitation toilet that is used intensively by market traders and those living in the vicinity. Users have a charge of 20 kwacha but this has not deterred custom even through the Council have a free toilet nearby. The Federation have been allocated land for toilet construction in two further markets and will begin building later this month.
The challenge of water availability
One of the biggest challenges that efforts to improve sanitation will have to address is the lack of water. From August to October pipes run dry and water is rationed across the city. In some neighbourhoods, there is no water for several days when both shallow wells and water kiosks fail. Even when it is available water from kiosks is expensive. At 20 kwacha for 20 litres, providing for the minimum requirements of a family of six costs about $9 a month. Another Federation activity has been helping households connect to the piped water network with loans for water meters and other costs associated with network expansion. Cost savings are immediate and one member recently reported that her bill had fallen to about two thirds of its previous value. However, the connection charges may be as much as $200 a household. The Federation and its support NGO, CCODE, have been thinking about the potential of rainwater harvesting.
A People-Centred Approach to Citywide Sanitation
As the global development discourse formulates the post-MDG agenda, sanitation is a core area that demands attention. Having for too long been neglected by governments, as is reflected by sporadic service and dilapidated infrastructure for the urban poor, it is one of the MDG’s that will not be met by 2015. Sanitation provision has a key role to play in creating the political and legislative conditions for well-located land to be made available to the urban poor. The work of the urban poor in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, India and many other countries across the SDI network demonstrates explicitly that sanitation is not just about toilets. It speaks to issues of equitable access and tenure security. If governments and urban poor communities provide sanitation facilities in partnership (as has been the case in countries like India and Uganda), then an in situ political and financial investment has been made in slum areas and, as a result, eviction (or relocation) become far less likely. Additionally, sanitation provision implies discussions around water provision, drainage, solid waste management and connections to bulk city infrastructure.
Alongside evictions, inadequate sanitation is a central crisis in slums. For several decades the sanitation development framework was driven vertically by engineers, with those in greatest need of sanitation facilities given the least in terms of access, design, usage and management. SDI federations have begun serious local and national discourses exploring all elements involved in ensuring that slums are initially open defecation free, and subsequently, have adequate sanitation for all.
Debates about whether toilets should be located at the household or community level continue worldwide. Within SDI, the pragmatic sequence is as follows.
- For slum dwellers, sanitation is a governance issue. It is the duty and obligation of cities to ensure all fecal matter is collected and disposed of hygienically in a manner that is non-threatening for citizens and the city.
- The present deficit is huge and cities having ignored the issue for many decades, which now makes initiating solutions very difficult.
- Cities have to participate in the challenge of ensuring universally available sanitation. It is an essential contribution of community networks to document lack of facilities and engage the city to ensure sanitation access.
- Infrastructure (water sewer lines), density, finances (of communities and the city) and available technologies are key factors in the choices that cities and communities make about the best approaches to sanitation provision.
- In old, densely populated slums where houses are very small and sewerage access does not exist to clear fecal matter away, community toilets with safety tanks remain an imperfect solution.
An incremental approach to informal settlement upgrading remains key to a long-term process that develops community capacity alongside infrastructure. Toilet construction and management has the potential to bring organized communities and local governments together in partnerships that have the possibility for replication in other settlements across the city.
In addition, making a citywide impact through sanitation opens up the space for other relationships with government to be developed around associated services and infrastructure (e.g. solid waste management, grey water recycling or the provision of water). Communities are also able to access upgrading funds and, as in India and Uganda, become the contractors who build, maintain and manage sanitation infrastructure. The momentum this generates has potential for both local and national policy reforms and articulations. It is becoming increasingly clear that sanitation interventions and the partnerships that they create can lay the groundwork for partnerships and outcomes at a citywide scale.
To read more about SDI affiliates’ work creating people-centred sanitation solutions at the citywide scale, check out the following blog posts & our Annual Report:
Taking Water & Sanitation to the Citywide Scale
Project Diary: Kalimali Sanitation Unit, Uganda
Improving Sanitation in Kinawataka Market, Uganda
Financing Sanitation Solutions in Uganda
Uganda Loses USD $177m Annually Due to Poor Sanitation: What is the Federation Doing?
In Tanzania, Scaling Up Sanitation for the Urban Poor
In Tanzania, Reaching the Wider Community Through Improved Sanitation
Slum Dweller Federation of Tanzania Leads Construction of Public Toilet
In a Risky Place: Women & Sanitation in Nairobi’s Slums
SPARC’s Strategy for Community Toilet Block Construction & Maintenance in India
Partnerships through Upgrading: 5 Cities Delegation Visits Langrug Settlement
Waterborne | Water & Sanitation in Slovo Park, South Africa
Communities Work with Government to Improve Sanitation
A young man walks past a pile of garbage in Viwandani ward, Naivasha.
**Cross-posted from the Muungano Support Trust Blog**
By Augustine Karani with additional commentary from Dominic Mwangi, MuST Kenya
The delay in garbage collection was a major source of problem for the residents of Viwandani in Naivasha. When taking a walk in the Viwandani area, one was faced with more than two feet of water collected stagnantly in pot holes perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes, uncollected garbage scattered haphazardly and foul stench filled the air.
The community faced harshest of challenges when it came to water and sanitation as there are no proper water drainage and sewerage systems. In addition, the supply of piped water was inconsistent and unreliable leaving the community to rely on water supplied by water vendors which was costly and inconveniencing.
About 40 plots had no sock pits, and the sewer systems had burst scattering the flow of sewage in the villages, exposing the residents to high risk of infections.
Poor environmental sanitation, lack of access to clean water and open drainage, are one of the major risk factors supporting the spread of diseases like Cholera.
It is out of these hardships that the residents of Viwandani ward came together to discuss the poor sanitation and lack of water. Through local lobbying and advocacy teams formed through Tushirikishe Jamii project, they engage in community forums, dialogue and active lobbying seeking solutions to the problems facing them.
The residents held several meetings key among them with the public health officers, Naivasha water company services, municipal council of Naivasha, National Environmental Management Authority and the District Development Officer.
For four months from January, the community engaged in to and fro shuffle activities seeking to address this problem. At one point the residents had to write a memo to all stakeholders complaining of unfulfilled promises and slow reaction to their grievances by the health office.
Their incessant efforts finally bore fruits as the Public Health Office promised to give a comprehensive report on the matter.
On June, the water and sewerage company invited the lobby and advocacy committee to their office and after further consultations, they promised to repair the entire burst sewer within 48 hrs and to always ensure that the sewer systems in good conditions. The company later unblocked all the sewage line within the 48 hours as they had promised.
The local landlords were also issued with a notice to construct sock pit for each plot and those whose premises are located next to sewer lines are to follow the necessary procedures to ensure an effective sewerage and draining system.
The municipal council on its part pledged to ensure quick collection of garbage in all the villages. Thanks to Tushirikishe Jamii project for adding new approaches to communities to the achievement of our needs.
Tushirikishe Jamii, a project of Forum Syd, implemented through Muungano wa Wanavijiji (Federation of Slum Dwellers) and Youth Alive Kenya, is funded by the European Union through the Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs NSA-net Program. The project seeks to enhance community participation in devolved funds and governance.