Appropriate Low-Cost Sanitation
Namibia has the lowest sanitation coverage in southern Africa and about half of all informal settlement residents in Namibia defecate in the open. In Windhoek alone, that translates into at least 80,000 informal settlement residents, and some 40 tons of faeces ending up mainly in riverbeds every single day.
Open defecation and the failure to dispose safely of excreta cause sickness and death. Diarrhoea and diseases like Hepatitis E spread due to the bacteriological contamination of water sources and the transmission of pathogens through the faecal-oral route. An average of 15% of children in towns in Namibia suffer from diarrhoea. Diarrhoea is a leading cause of child mortality worldwide and costs for transport to medical facilities, medical care and treatment and income loss are burdens for poor urban households.
In 2018, Development Workshop Namibia (DWN) conducted research and field trials on low-cost toilets in northern Namibia, with support from the Namibian Chamber of Environment. Based on the encouraging results, UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) contracted DWN in August 2019 as the implementing agency for a Windhoek sanitation project employing the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) methodology, with the aim of decreasing open defecation and containing the Hepatitis E outbreak that began in 2017.
With the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, DWN’s sanitation program expanded to include an emergency handwashing initiative and constructed over 65,000 low-cost handwashing systems called tippy-taps across the country.
As of July 2020, as more actors recognized the effectiveness of the CLTS approach in urban environments, the programme secured longer-term funding that has allowed for expansion to additional municipalities throughout the country. DWN aims to make the urgent issue of urban sanitation a priority among Namibian policy makers in the coming years.
- Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS): this methodology uses a bottom-up approach and relies on a network of trained volunteers who sensitize informal settlement residents on the dangers of open defecation. During their house-to-house visits, they encourage the construction of household latrines, frequent hand washing and safe water storage. They also distribute informative pamphlets in local languages and conduct community activities such as clean-up campaigns. The goal of CLTS is to have a neighborhood declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) by a multi-ministerial committee. CLTS is endorsed by the Government of Namibia and mentioned in Harambee Prosperity Plan II.
- Demonstration sanitation centres: DWN hires local contractors to build low-cost, municipality-approved toilets in high-traffic areas. These demonstration toilets provide construction guidelines and serve as encouragement to local residents to build their own household toilets. Frequently these sanitation centres serve kindergartens or are a pay-per-use public toilet, providing an additional community benefit.
- Entrepreneurial solid waste management solutions: Most residents in informal settlements do not benefit from household rubbish collection, and where there are ‘waste islands’ a community cannot be certified as ODF as there is always the risk of faeces mixed amongst other waste. In collaboration with municipalities, DWN builds fenced-off community waste collection points where residents can deposit their rubbish, and the municipality regularly collects it. A pay-per-use toilet is constructed next to the collection point to serve the community. A local social entrepreneur manages the waste collection point and toilet (earning the user fees), and sells hygiene and other goods at a small kiosk.
- Recyling: Much of the waste destined for landfills is recyclable. DWN is testing recycling initiatives with its social entrepreneurs in Windhoek and plans to expand to other cities in the future.
- GIS monitoring: All major activities are recorded on DWN’s GIS monitoring system: household visits, constructed sanitation centres, pre-existing and newly constructed household toilets.
DWN currently implements its sanitation programme in 8 towns:
- Katima Mulilo
The programme will extend to an additional 7 towns through 2024.
Current main donors: European Commission, Unicef, KfW
Additional and former donors: NCE, UNDP, B2Gold, RMB, GIZ, Debmarine, Development Bank of Namibia.