SA SDI Alliance and the Asivikelane Campaign

The lack of basic services has been a challenge for informal settlement dwellers in South Africa. Many informal settlements lack basic services, some walk a distance to access basic services and those who do have access to the services struggle when they need their services to be maintained (fixing when they break or are stolen).

Through the Asivikelane campaign, social movements (ISN and FEDUP leaders who are community facilitators for different informal settlements) collect data by contacting community residents about the conditions of their services. As a result, the data is shared with relevant departments to ensure a strong relationship such as Solid Waste Management, Water and Sanitation, Maintenance Unit, Roads and Storm Water etc.

To address community issues, these departments engage directly with informal settlements on a regular basis. As a result of these working relationships, refuse removal intervals have been improved, toilets have been unblocked, damaged or non-functional facilities have been repaired, water taps have been repaired, storm water drainage is maintained, chemical toilets are drained regularly, and some communities now use the spaces they used for dumping for community gardening and recycling.  For instance, the Department of Solid Waste provides cleaning materials for cleaning campaigns, refuse bags, and waste management education for residents and now communities are able to contact the department of solid waste directly to request for assistance when their waste containers are overflowing.

With the help of waste management, the Asivikelane Campaign have conducted several cleaning campaigns in the following settlements:

  • Mathambo Informal Settlement;
  • Havelock Informal Settlement;
  • Parking ton Informal Settlement;
  • Mallaca Informal Settlement;
  • Johanna Road Informal Settlement;
  • Boxwood Informal Settlement;
  • Simplace and NCP etc.

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.

Sierra Leone SDI Alliance Response to Covid-19


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Nearly three months since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Sierra Leone, the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP) and their support NGO the Centre for Dialogue on Human Settlements and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA) reflect on actions taken to date and the challenges that still lie ahead in taking action against this pandemic.


This report provides narrative on how FEDURP has been involved in the fight against COVID-19 in their localities within Freetown Municipality, which is the epicentre of the pandemic. Their involvement has been driven by the institutional response strategy developed in collaboration with Freetown City Council (FCC). This strategy was generated using feedback and experiences of FEDURP and community volunteers actively involved in various activities to help prevent and mitigate the spread of the virus in their respective localities.


In early April 2020, FEDURP and CODOHSAPA consulted and put together a COVID-19 response plan as the pandemic was close to getting its way into Sierra Leone from the two neighboring countries of Liberia and Guinea. This plan constituted the following thematic pillars:

  • Leverage existing partnerships with local authorities, such as Freetown City Council, to establish clear roles and responsibilities and clear lines of communication between government and communities;
  • Adapt and deliver initiatives formulated within the national policy framework;
  • Monitoring of community dynamics, including livelihood activities and movement of people in and out of their settlements; and,
  • Enhancing contact tracing of suspected or positive cases within their communities.

To ensure that our strategy was better informed and relevant, it also capitalised on FCC’s COVID-19 response framework with three strategic pillars, namely;

  • Behavior change messaging,
  • Behavior change support, and,
  • Isolation and containment support.

These two foregoing strategic pillars incidentally aligned with the strategic objectives of the SDI network with respect to Covid-19, namely;

  • To provide community owned and validated settlement profile and mapping data to inform co-developed preparedness and response plans including logistics;
  • Settlement level enablement of co-owned humanitarian assistance responses by means of leveraging existing social and political capital as a way to build two-way trust between providers and affected populations; and,
  • To engage in monitoring and advocacy activities at settlement and city level in order to minimize threats of evictions and counterproductive closures of essential informal services during periods of lockdown or protracted national emergency.

Hence, the actions of FEDURP included; i) mobilization of community volunteers to focus on case and incident reporting; ii) development of sensitization messaging materials such as posters, handbills, and videos; iii) engagement in community sensitisation through direct community outreach and using various social media platforms to share videos and radio discussion; iv) provision of veronica buckets (for hand washing) and face masks; v) work with settlement-based local chiefs to enforce government regulations and practices; and, vi) engagement with state and local authorities to enhance government response to needs of informal settlements.

Prevention Response

  • Development of behaviour change messaging and information, education and communication (IEC) materials:

FEDURP and CODOHSAPA consulted various messaging materials developed by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS). The contents of these materials were customised to reflect the realities of slums and informal settlements. The messaging materials developed included visuals (posters and handbills) and audio-visuals (videos). This was done in collaboration with FCC and community health workers working in community health centres located in the informal settlements.  The videos were done by the KYC TV team. One of the videos was done with the mayor in one of the slums (Susan’s Bay) emphasing the importance of handwashing and social distancing.

  • Provision of handwashing facilities:

Five communities were supported with veronica buckets and soap which were located at strategic locations within communities. These provided facilities for handwashing, which helps to stimulate and enhance behaviour change in communities. Given that hand washing is the most basic practice to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the provision of these items has increased people’s awareness about handwashing practices as an important element to preventing the spread of the virus. These stations are monitored by young community volunteers to enforce the practice for passers-by and to replenish the water and soap.

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  • Production and provision of face masks:

1,250 face masks were produced by tailors who are members of FEDURP. 250 were directly distributed to community volunteers and 1,000 contributed to the 60,000 mask target set by the FCC to support vulnerable population in slum and informal settlements. 

  • Community sensitization and propagation of messaging:

Community volunteers drawn from the community-based disaster management committees (CDMCs) and FEDURP key participants engaged in community outreach activities, organising community and one-on-one sensitisation drives and distributing the posters and handbills containing customised messages that respond to the realities of slums and informal settlements.

Mitigation Response

  • Working with FCC to reach out vulnerable population with food items during lockdown:

The federation worked with FCC to support a community kitchen targeting three extremely vulnerable communities namely, Cockle Bay (in the west end of Freetown), CKG (central), and Old Wharf (east end) targeting people with disabilities, the elderly, orphans, pregnant girls and female headed households with multiple dependents. This is to mitigate hunger for these categories of people who are limited to sourcing livelihood opportunities. Without such support, they are exposed to reinforced marginalisation and increase their exposure to contracting the virus and/or decreasing the chances of survival if they get exposed to the virus.

  • Engagement with authorities to enhance support to informal settlements:

The situation of slums and informal settlements remains largely ignored by state institutions in responding to COVID-19. FEDURP volunteers have been engaging particularly with the Disaster Management Department of the Office of National Security (ONS) in which they responded by providing materials to these localities. Nevertheless, FCC has been quite responsive to the needs of slums and informal settlements. With focus on COVID-19, the engagement has also brought into view environmental disasters as the rains that are about to start, which often leads to massive seasonal and tidal flooding, rock or mud falls, landslides and more. There are speculations that if preparedness actions are not taken now before the rains set in it may beset the preventive measures and escalate the spread of the virus. Hence, the federation is pushing for environmental disaster preparedness. Another issue of concern is the militaristic approach to effecting quarantine actions in slums and informal settlements compared to formal or built up neighbourhoods. This has resulted in resistance and mistrust between communities and law enforcement. FEDURP therefore found it critical to encourage the relevant authorities to adopt more humane and civil methods.

  •  Development of case monitoring app (Freetown Informal Settlement Covid-19 Data – Fiscovidata)

This app has been initiated to ensure that incidents and issues emerging in slums and informal settlements are captured and reported so that their situation are not sidelined and to serve as the basis to inform key stakeholders about the realities of these localities. This was done in consultation with FCC capturing the perspectives of all parties. It also provides opportunities for the participants to improve data collection skills and sensitivity to the needs and realities of their settlements. (See the link:

  • Case and incident reporting:

This initiative constituted 126 data collectors spread across the 68 slums and informal settlements in which 48 are attached to the FCC ward-level community engagement structure using the aforementioned app, Fiscovidata, to collect and report cases and other incidents. Two levels of data analysis are done, i) community level data analysis that reflects the 68 settlements; and, ii) ward level in which incidents from these communities and other neighbourhoods within a ward are compiled to reflect the ward for sole purpose of FCC. Collecting and reporting on the cases and related incidents is important to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, as it helps to inform stakeholders of necessary actions that may address the needs of slum dwellers and informal settlers.

  • Networking with State and Non-State Agencies

The fight against COVID-19 requires collaborative actions to build synergies and maximize the use of limited resources in the face of this global pandemic. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) has been responsible for designing appropriate IEC materials as well coordinating the provision of health services nationwide, including COVID-related mitigation and curatives. As such, messages we customized were derived from the approved MoHS resource base. At the same time, development and enforcement of protocols, procedures, and practices are undertaken by the Emergency Operational Centre (EOC). This has remained quite centralized, even though attempts are being made to decentralize its operations, making it difficult for CSOs to efficiently interact with the centre.

Collaboration with FCC has continued in order to maximize the provision of services and support. FEDURP/CODOHSAPA undertakes community mobilization and organisation as well as providing necessary data to inform FCC’s actions and service provision. This synergy tends to reinforce the recognition of slum and informal settlements as part of the municipal constituents, which by all indication precludes any foreseeable forced eviction in the course of the current situation.

FEDURP’s engagement with ONS saw additional provision of hand washing facilities in a few settlements and involved discussions on how both partners can begin to work on the actions to mitigate environmental disaster as rainy season is just setting in now.

A consortium including CRS, FCC, FEDURP/CODOHSAPA, CARITAS Freetown and Sierra Leone Red Cross has been constituted to seek funding from EU. By all indications, there is the possibility to win this grant which will target the slum dwellers and informal settlers, and special trade and socio-economic groups such as Traders and Market Women Council, Bike Riders Association, Tricycle (Kekeh) Drivers Union and Motor Drivers Union.

We are also working with ARISE partners to finalise and roll out the concept on our collaboration on the fight against COVID-19. This will focus on the following objectives:

  • Improved community capacity to respond and mitigate the spread and contagion of COVID-19 in slums and informal settlements in Freetown;
  • Enhance government’s COVID-19 response and mitigation priorities to reflect the needs of slums and informal settlements; and,
  • Improve structures and practices for the collection and documentation of experiences and learning of COVID-19 response and mitigation interventions in slums and informal settlements


Some of the challenges we have faced include the following:

  • The centralized approach poses the challenge of efficiently engaging with Emergency Operational Centre (EOC);
  • There are huge needs, particularly in slums and informal settlements, but limited funding to respond adequately;
  • Mixed messages has resulted in the emergence of myths and misconceptions in communities and the society generally about the Covid-19 virus;
  • Periodic full and partial lockdowns seriously affect the livelihoods of slum dwellers and urban poor communities, as most are daily wage earners living on a hand-to-mouth basis. This is reinforced by the increase in the cost of food stuff caused by the ban on inter-district vehicular movement, which in turn affects movement of local food stuff from the rural areas where local food stuff are grown and at same time affect the marketing stock of the market women sellers.

Lessons Learned

Some of the lessons learned include:

  • Our experiences from the Ebola outbreak was a capital for the government and local actors to draw from to design and plan for the fight against COVID-19.
  • Ebola attracted a lot of funding from international partners, but the emergency of COVID-19 as a global pandemic attracted less support globally, which is an indication that nations across the globe were busy fighting their own scourge.
  • The need for community participation has become even more important, as restriction on movement and enforcement of social distancing precludes others from directly supporting local actions.
  • COVID-19 has stimulated ingenuity and creativity, such as the local fabrication of hand washing stations and face mask.
  • COVID-19 has registered the urgent need for our government to invest in our health and other essential infrastructures as the ban on international flights has limited all of us (rich and poor, governors and the governed) to use our local health facilities as they have no second option of traveling abroad.

Next Steps 

As the Sierra Leone SDI Alliance, we have identified the following as critical next steps:

  • Focus sensitisation on myths and misconceptions.
  • Data collection and incident reporting continues.
  • Continue engagement with partners to seek other funding opportunities.
  • FEDURP and volunteers to strengthen community monitoring efforts in collaboration with respective resident local chiefs.
  • Continue engagement with state and non-state actors to strengthen synergies and enhance support to slums and informal settlements


Zambian Federation & PPHPZ: Responses to COVID-19


92374573_2612631225681304_7903327264496943104_oOn 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.

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.

Community members map the settlement layout


Community members number shacks, one phrase of the enumeration process

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.

The nearly complete Midrand WaSH Facility


The Langrug WASH Facility a New Common Space for the Community



Cross posted from SA SDI Alliance Blog

By Thandeka Tshabalala (on behalf of CORC)

Langrug is an effervescent informal settlement that was illegally formed in 1993; this settlement is located in the most affluent farm area called Franschhoek, outside of Stellenbosch. Beyond the lavish hills and wine lands lies Langrug providing affordable housing to seasonal farm workers who work on the vineyards surrounding Stellenbosch.  The settlement is characterised by extreme poverty, poor housing and sanitation. In spite of all these challenges, the community of Langrug have placed its hope on the partnership formed with the Municipality of Stellenbosch. It is through this innovative collaboration that forge the community’s inclusion and participation to shape a successful in situ upgrading process.

In November 2010, the SDI Alliance and Municipality introduced the partnership to the Mayor and Council. In 2011 a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed, clearly stating the joint objectives. The partnership aims at upgrading 7,000 households. This engagement aligns with the National Upgrading Support Program (NUSP) and the presidency-driven national programme delivery agreement to upgrade a total of 400,000 households by 2014. CORC has been helping the community of Langrug to participate in a comprehensive process of informal settlement upgrading.

Langrug’s Demographics

In March 2011 Langrug’s leadership created a dedicated profiling team to work side by side with its enumerators. The aim of the project was to map the settlement’s existing infrastructure by identifying on a scaled aerial photograph the location and conditions of all toilets, water taps, drains, drainage gullies, electricity boxes, and street lights. An enumeration was later conducted and it was found that the ratio of people to toilets was 49:1, and that of people to water points was 72: 1, with such services being sporadically dispersed through the settlement, access unequal, and service location inconsistent. Without a doubt, the need for an upgrade of sanitation facilities within the settlement was a priority.

 The partnership with WPI

In 2011, two teams from Worcester Polytechnic Institute formed a partnership with the Langrug community with the hope of upgrading and maintaining the existing facilities and understanding the social interaction with these essential services. The project ultimately demonstrated how communities have the ability to interact with public infrastructure, and partner with planners to develop innovative means of providing more appropriate services.

The need for a grey-water project within Langrug was undeniably evident. Years of accumulated household grey water that was stagnating in the settlement resulted in numerous negative health effects for all settlement dwellers, and particularly for those living next to the water source, or for the children playing around it. A WPI grey-water team allied with community researchers with the aim of setting a precedent for community grey-water interventions, encouraging the community as a whole to participate in grey-water implementations and maintenance, develop grey-water systems that will service as sustainable long-term solutions, and equipping the co-researchers to continue aiding future grey-water projects.

In October 2012, through the upgrading partnership in Langrug, the community, CORC, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the Stellenbosch Municipality had an idea of an integrated community centre. The Initial idea of the project was to provide a multi-purpose Centre. Community hall, as a place for community gatherings, where groups can have a space to work, do business and learn. This would be complemented with a Water and Sanitation Hygiene area with unlimited use, for the whole community.

The idea was shared with the wider community and a site was proposed. The identified site was highly underutilized, it was overgrown with weeds and littered with solid waste. Two broken toilets stood on the space due to frequent vandalism. This site posed a growing health hazard for the Langrug Settlement, carrying the risk of transmittable disease, particularly to vulnerable groups such as children who often convert the space into a playground.

The wash facility

Even though the Municipality had been working to improve the ratio of toilets provided per household, but it was still far from South Africa’s standard of five families per toilet.  The GE Foundation provided WPI with a grant to spend on an innovative, community-driven sanitation project. See

The final wash design goes beyond the standard in sanitation by incorporating community-driven aspects with innovative sanitation services. The facility includes five hand-washing sinks, two of which are lowered for children, four laundry basins in a central area so mothers can watch their children while washing laundry, urinals, two showers, and a total of nine toilet stalls – three each for men and women, two for children, and one unisex handicapped stall. During operating hours, a caretaker responsible for cleaning, maintaining, and distributing toilet paper and soap monitors the facility. The wash facility is well lit and secured at night with the possibility of a toilet and tap to be accessible after hours. The facility is multifunctional and includes a children’s learning area, a hair salon and benches. These characteristics provide a more welcoming and dynamic communal space, an approach that has proven to increase the longevity and sense of community ownership of such a facility.


 Technical design

 The outer structure consists primarily of poles, timber and zinc sheets; these materials were chosen because they were easy to work with, obtainable at a relatively low cost, and were familiar to the community. The toilets, hand sinks, and laundry basins are made of a composite material that is both durable and aesthetically pleasing. The toilets use a push button design reducing the risk of vandalism by concealing the plumbing behind the walls. The facility has been designed with the intention of introducing sustainable sanitation options in the future such as:

  • Rainwater collection for hand washing sinks
  • Grey water collection and recycling for toilet flushing
  • Urine divergent toilets


The Construction Process

The construction of the facility was a true multi-stakeholder process that all agreed had strengthened the Langrug partnership by bringing everyone together to work toward a common goal. Trevor and Alfred, Langrug community leaders, rose to the occasion and presented themselves as a key force throughout construction. Their building expertise and drive was inspirational and critical for the completion of the facility. A municipal field worker supported the working team every step of the way, especially with logistics and design recommendations. The CORC technical team was instrumental to the design process and to fostering effective working relationships.


Implementation challenges

Throughout the construction process, the team faced many challenges. During the second week of construction, farm worker riots prevented the team from reaching the build site for two full days, and when they could finally return to the site, they discovered that most of the building tools had been stolen. Though these obstacles challenged the construction process timeframe, everyone showed their resilience and pushed to keep the project moving forward.


The wash facility is currently fully functional and the community is using it to its full capacity. It operates between 6Am – 10Pm and the municipality of Stellenbosch has contracted two community members to clean and monitor the use of the facility.  The community is glad with the development of the facility because they feel that it was a long awaited and needed facility, especially because it is not only limited to the community’s use, but football clubs also use it when they have come to play with the local teams and they are hoping that the local churches will use it when they are hosting religious festivals. This innovative structure is the beginning to a new and improved way of providing sanitation services to communities with a meaning and the community of Langrug is hoping that the municipality will implement more structures of this kind within the settlement.


In Tanzania, Scaling Up Sanitation for the Urban Poor

Water & Sanitation in Tanzania

By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat

The improvement of sanitation in urban informal settlements in Africa is one of the key upgrading strategies that can make a tangible difference in poor communities. Through a joint action research project titled SHARE (Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity) communities in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia are using the SDI rituals of community-driven enumerations, profiling and mapping to outline the obstacles to achieving pro-poor citywide sanitation. The next phase of the project calls on the countries to build precedent setting pilot projects based on the information collected.

At a recent meeting in Tanzania each country reflected on progress made and the way forward. Discussions and presentations focused on how to use the information gathered (situational analysis) to generate political momentum, leverage resources, forge partnerships, create awareness and go to scale. Discussions were complemented by a visit to Keko Machungwa informal settlement to see latrines built by the Tanzanian federation and to Chamasi housing project where the group saw a constructed wetland, built to treat wastewater. A team from Uganda with experience in building and managing communal toilet facilities was also present throughout the 3-day meeting and significantly added to the discussions.

As the precedent setting phase of the project starts in earnest, federation members also discussed the key challenges as outlined by the situational analyses. This blog focuses on extracts from two presentations given by the Tanzanian federation – one about the research conducted and the second about likely precedents to address the challenges identified in the research phase. It is hoped that these details will give the reader a flavor of the challenges federations face in providing pro-poor sanitation at scale and the incremental steps employed to tackle these complexities.

Dar-es-Salaam: Sanitation Situational Analysis


Water & Sanitation in Tanzania

Dar-es-Salaam has a current approximate population of 4 million which is growing by 8% P.A.

  • 70%-80% live in informal settlements and the city is split into 3 municipalities.
  • The sewerage network covers only 10% of the city while the coverage of pit latrines is 98%.
  • The absence of a sanitation policy has led to the lack of guidance to role-players in the sector. A draft policy is currently being developed.
  • Little emphasis on sanitation & hygiene at the local level. 

Research and Findings: 

The Tanzanian federation undertook a surveying and mapping exercise of sanitation conditions in existing settlements. While pit latrine coverage was high, the conditions of many toilets was extremely poor. Some key findings included:

  • The main type of toilet used is the traditional pit latrine, which are normally poorly constructed, have poor super structure and cracking walls that affect stability. Four cases were noted during the study where people drowned in the latrines’ pits.
  • Lack of finances to improve the latrines also emerged as a key issue. This is compounded when negotiating the delicate relationship between landlords and tenants.
  • Pit emptying also emerged as a major challenge. Access to latrines is difficult because of the layout of informal settlements. Costs are also significant and existing practices have associated health and environmental impacts. 

Water & Sanitation in TanzaniaWater & Sanitation in Tanzania

Pit emptying can be dangerous and unhygienic. 

GIS was used to map the toilet type and location within informal settlements such as Keko Machungwa. The mapping process was done with the assistance of the community and local officials. 

Toilets presented in the map:

Water & Sanitation in Tanzania

  • Eco-San:  2
  • Pour Flush: 336
  • Septic Tank: 37
  • Traditional pit Latrines: 496
  • Tire pit latrines: 5
  • Piped to stream: 3
  • No toilet: 23

Dissemination and outputs for the Tanzanian federation:

  • The Federation has been able to understand the latrine situation in selected informal settlements in Dar es Salaam city.
  • Skills acquisition to federation members with regards to data collection skills, numbering, use of computer and cameras and GPS devices.
  • Relationships developed with communities and government officials at the street, ward and municipal level.
  • Implement alternative methods of pit emptying (gulper).

From the above extracts the reader should have a sense of some of the challenges that the Tanzanian federation faces. Even though there is a relatively high coverage of latrines, they are in a very poor condition and emptying them is costly and difficult.

The second presentation given by the Tanzanian team outlines some of the precedents they will use to address the above challenges.

Precedent Identification Process: 

Water & Sanitation in Tanzania

Discussion was done with federation members and they identified precedents based on situational analysis results:

  • Establishment of Sanitation Centers as a means for sanitation improvement and going to scale.
  • Introduce viable pit emptying mechanisms such as the “Gulper”
  • Train latrine construction technicians
  • Construction of shared latrines and promotion of accepted technologies
  • Construction of shared septic tanks

Discussion Meeting with Local Government Authority:

Meetings took place between local government authorities and the federation members in order to discuss the results and identify the precedents:

  • Establishing sanitation centers
  • Construction of shared septic tanks and DEWATS (Decentralized Waste Treatment Systems) 
  • Law enforcement for negligent landlords

Sanitation Centers:

    Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 4.14.24 PM

  • Management of the sanitation center will be by the community including the Federation, Community Health Committees and other key actors. 
  • Actors involved in the management would consider the interests of various groups including tenants and owners (negotiating this relationship)
  • Interventions should aim to meet needs of different people.

How precedents will facilitate scaling up:

  • Sanitation centers will be a focal point for community action and organization 
  • The center will provide co-production opportunities by linking federation initiatives with other stakeholders
  • Strengthen community and government relations by linking with ward level government in a manner that will provide an opportunity for local government to participate.
  • Different models of payment for services like installment payment and co-payment between structure owners and tenants
  • Sanitation mapping to understand land ownership arrangements and how it affects sanitation improvement
  • Explore land availability for communal septic tanks, DEWATS and wetland systems, systems which would accommodate many people within settlements
  • Link with other departments and institutions for expertise and resource mobilization (water utility, drilling department & academic institutions)

Waterborne | Water & Sanitation in Slovo Park, South Africa

Waterborne from Pretoria Picture Company Inc. on Vimeo.

**Cross posted from SA SDI Alliance Blog** 


Watch this documentary film by the Pretoria Picture Company Inc. on the changing dynamics and identities of Slovo Park settlement south of Soweto. Slovo Park is also aligned to the Informal Settlement Network, and in collaboration with universities and other stakeholders, design solutions have been tabled in partnership meetings. The documentary surfaces some of the finely granulated nuances in building sustainable human settlements. According to the film makers,

Slovo Park is situated in a politically and socially sensitive stretch of land south of Soweto. The community has been known by national government as Nancefield, by local council as Olifantsvlei and in the last five years as Slovo Park – named in honour of South Africa’s first minister of housing and former Umkhonto we Sizwe General, Joe Slovo.

This forced changing of identity reflects an on-going struggle faced by the leadership of Slovo Park to gain recognition as a legitimate settlement to access governmental support. This battle has been fought through constant shifts in governmental policy, power and promises for the community of Slovo Park. Amidst the struggle, stories of sinister land dealings have emerged, outlining a possible truth that the ground beneath Slovo Park could have been sold from under the community’s feet. These allegations surface as the leadership of Slovo Park prepares itself to take action.

This video illustrates how incremental upgrading releases the imagination of communities in engaging local governments. The communities intimate understanding of infrastructure grinds and networks makes service delivery, development and ultimately sustainable human settlements possible. Buck’s, one of the community leaders, deliberations on the nature of service delivery is particularly insightful:

Because already we have got sewerage pipes that are running as far as Soweto. The one alongside the boundary road is running from as far as Leratong, and imagine we don’t have sewerage here but we can transport other people’s stuff from as “Die Kloof”. We have the dams adjacent to us; it is not even 100m to walk to the dam, and still we cant get pipes to there. But still the engineers are saying that it is impossible to have sewerage in the area. But already there are pipes running in the area and so you ask yourself, “Why is it so diffent and difficult if we must get, but the previous engineers, the previous government, installed the sewerage pipes that are running through the informal settlement that we are in”. So you ask yourself, “is it different from this year’s engineers to yesteryear’s engineers”. I don’t know how to call it, but that is what they say!

If government can’t come to us, let us do it for ourselves. We have started with a hall, which we want to expand into a multi-purpose centre for the community. We don’t have playggrounds, we don’t have parks, we don’t have a hall, which makes it difficult for kids to concentrate on their lives. So the multipurpose will help to bring them together and giving them something to do. At the same time, as the community, we will have a space to have our meetings for our offices (because we have many forums in the community, such as the business forum). My wish is to have a proper toilet, just like everyone else. Just like the premier Nomvula Mokonyane, just like our president Jacob Zuma’s toilet, that’s my wish. That has been my wish since I was a kid, and I am already 44 years old. My family has accepted this is how we will live in the meantime.


Taking Water & Sanitation to the Citywide Scale

Kisenyi, Kampala

By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat 

Developmental agendas on the global stage generally involve a reliance on statistics. The millennium development goals (MDG’s) provide quantifiable targets for countries to work towards. For example Goal 7, Target 7C aims to halve the global population without access to sustainable drinking water and sanitation.  The official website for the recent Rio+20 conference on sustainable development proudly boasts of USD $513 billion mobilized in commitments focused on transport, green economy, disaster reduction, desertification, water, forests and agriculture.

 Statistics are interesting since they can capture a vastly complex and multi-faceted problem and reduce it into quantifiable terms. This makes sense when speaking to a global audience on a global stage. Results, progress and challenges can be “packaged” into numbers that can be increased or reduced through interventions. The seemingly obvious point worth stressing is that global statistics and the march towards them imply sustainable solutions that can go to citywide scale. Solutions thus need social, political and practical traction to tackle the structural conditions that produce endemic urban poverty. Critically they also need to cater for the poorest of the poor.

While global platforms focus on making sweeping changes and commitments one wonders how deeply below the surface they scratch? Do they begin to unravel the complex relationships between competing politics, history, planning, design, spatial exclusion, policy and practice that are interwoven in defining how cities are and have been shaped? Structural conditions of spatial exclusion are built into the urban fabric and cemented through multiple interwoven processes defining the forms of cities-largely excluding the poor from services and benefits. Proposed solutions on the global stage tend to disaggregate this interconnectivity into different “silos” to be treated as separate difficulties through separate interventions. Furthermore there is a an assumption that solutions, focused on their specific “silos” can be produced by top down interventions at large scales; through adjustments to existing systems of governance and development, through the re-imagination of capital and the introduction of new technologies.  What is missing is recognition of the value of community experience that can engage with decisions as they play out on the ground-a far cry from the podiums of international events

Zim - Dvarisekwa - Skyloo Construction

Constructing an Ecosan sanitation unit in Zimbabwe

The Malawian, Tanzanian, Zimbabwean and Zambian SDI federations are grappling with taking water and sanitation solutions to citywide scale from the bottom up. At a recent meeting hosted by the Malawian team some of the key points raised affirm the complexity of taking sanitation to citywide scale. Examples from the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) in Pakistan illustrate the potential for communities to take sanitation solutions to scale.

Different technological sanitation options were raised during the meeting in. Communities frame sanitation technology in social, political and financial terms. No “wonder toilet technology,” no matter how touted it is on the international stage can have impact unless it makes sense within the local context.  What becomes clear is that it is not the technology that strictly matters but the processes that exist around it; does it make sense socially, financially and locally?

Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) in Pakistan is an example of sanitation technology that “fits” into daily life-it makes social as well as technical sense. The system has encouraged informal communities (Katchi Abadis) in Karachi to develop internal sewerage systems (latrines, sanitary lanes and collection sewers) that follow the natural drainage channels of the settlement (nalas). Organised communities finance, manage and build sanitation solutions that they now have ownership of, and a vested interest in maintaining. Sewerage lanes feed into trunk sewers provided by the state-a political partnership is forged.

Holistic approaches that have the buy-in of communities can mobilize political action and momentum. Influencing written policy is not enough. Government needs to be drawn into collaborative partnerships that show how community engagement can enhance and benefit service delivery. For example authorities in Blantyre can assist in linking informal settlements to trunk sewer and water systems. 

In Pakistan the OPP created the political momentum and practical evidence to meaningfully engage the state around an area in which they had previously had little impact. The OPP also showed an alternative solution rather than merely making a call for limited state resources. It made sense for both the poor and the state to invest, at scale, in this model.

In terms of the scale of investments, in Karachi’s katchi abadis, people have invested Rs 180 million (US$ 3 million) and government has invested Rs 531 million (US$ 8.85 million) in sewerage through ad hoc projects.  Similarly, people have invested Rs 154.5 million (US$ 2.58 million) in water lines and government has invested Rs 195.7 million (US$ 3.26 million).  These households have built their neighborhood sanitation systems, and their total investment is around one-sixth of what it would have cost if local government had undertaken the same work. Outside of Orangi, the work has expanded to 419 settlements in Karachi and 23 cities/ towns also in 85 villages (spread over the Sindh and Punjab Provinces) covering a population of more than 2 million”

Eco-San Toilets Malawi

Ecosan toilets in Malawi

If sanitation provision is to go citywide communities are all too aware that a variety of deeply contextualized options must be available in the same city and even the same settlement. Discussions in Malawi emphasized the need for a variety of options and systems that are affordable for the poorest of the poor. Communal financing and management of public toilets, the rehabilitation and revitalization of government toilets, eco-sanitation models and localized communal septic tanks that do not have to be linked to the main sewer system were all discussed. 

Citywide water and sanitation finance models that provide small loans to slum dwellers are already in place in many SDI affiliates (e.g. India and Uganda) and and could provide the financial backing to take such an approach to scale.  To reach a citywide scale financial options for sanitation must cater to the poorest of the poor within a settlement and it is here that the SDI federations have a vital role to play. A citywide model is a model that works because the urban poor wish to invest their finances and can access a service that works for them through this investment. The scale of investment in OPP shows the impact that is possible when sanitation is affordable to all and makes sense locally.

By March 2010, 112,562 households had provided themselves with sanitation through 7,893 collective initiatives organised in lanes, representing 90 per cent of the entire settlement of Orangi. Collectively, communities invested P Rps. 115 million of their own money in their sewerage system, with the government investment being P Rps. 745 million. From 1997, OPP-RTI started to work outside of Orangi by documenting and mapping settlements and infrastructures and drainage system across Karachi; and increasing level of engagement with concerned government departments and agencies such as the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and Sindh Katchi Abadi Authority, as well as Karachi community-based organisations.

Sanitation and water provision are not a distinct “silo” but are part of developing strategies for informal settlement upgrading across the city. Recognition of the multiple factors that affect sanitation were expressed by the federations throughout the meeting. Discussions covered planning standards and regulations being outdated and ill suited to informal settlements, the physical geography of settlements and how this affects sanitation options, the challenges of accessing local funds from government, the fluctuating costs of building materials and what materials are acceptable amidst many other problems. It is clear that all these issues are deeply intertwined but often “housed” in different areas of the state, market and city.

Injections of capital and global political commitments are only as good as their ability to understand and engage with the complexity that is on the ground. At a large scale, on an international podium these grounded details appear far and removed, something that enough money and political maneuvering can sort out “over there”.  However as these ideas and actions move from the international stage they are invariably translated and altered only once again to be re-constituted as coherent and rational at the next meeting. Perhaps it is time for the flow of information to move the other way round? To embrace the complexities, contradictions and details that the Malawians, Tanzanians, Zimbabweans and Zambians are working with, to realize that solutions need to cater to the poorest of the poor, that there is no single technological “silver bullet ” for urban poverty and better understand the ingrained systematic links that perpetuate exclusionary urban forms. OPP shows that grounded community models do work at scale and need to be afforded serious consideration and investment.