A waste dump in a settlement.

UPDATE: JUL-SEP 2021 Programme for Appropriate Low-Cost Urban Sanitation


Diarrhoea kills 2,195 children every day – more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. What is the cause of so much diarrhoea? Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and insufficient hygiene. Responsible for 88% of diarrhoea-associated deaths in children, these dangers are widespread in Namibia’s informal settlements. An urban sanitation programme implemented by Development Workshop Namibia (DWN), the Namibian Chamber of Environment (NCE) and UNICEF is working to minimise these dangers.

When the programme began working in the neighbourhood of Max Mutongolume in Moses // Garoeb Constituency of Windhoek earlier this year, children were frequently playing in and digging through waste islands in the neighbourhood. These behaviours not only can contribute to the spread of disease, they normalize the problem of lack of solid waste management in the eyes of children. In response, volunteers sensitized the adults in the community about the dangers of children playing in waste. On Saturday the 11th of September, the programme organised a sanitation event for over 200 children. In a playful way, children learned about the dangers of open defecation and playing in waste and about good hygiene behaviours. They practiced handwashing using a tippy-tap, were shown how to use a toilet, and learned ways to keep their environment clean. The hope is that not only will children be safer, they will become agents of hygiene-related change in their neighbourhoods.

Community engagement, like that seen in the children’s and recycling initiatives, is key to reaching the goal of making communities Open Defecation Free (ODF).


As the sanitation programme has grown, solid waste pollution in informal settlements has emerged as a critical challenge. Without cleaning river beds and green spaces of solid waste, it is not possible to declare informal settlement areas ODF. The programme is piloting community-based waste collection points in Windhoek and Otjiwarongo, and will establish similar solutions in Oniipa, Opuwo and Katima Mulilo, making sanitation- related enterprises an integral component of the sanitation programme.

While waste management is crucial, a glance at any rubbish collection point in Namibia reveals that a large portion of the materials deposited is recyclable: plastic drink bottles, tins, plastic bags, tetra-paks, household cleaning bottles, glass bottles. In Windhoek, the programme is piloting a recycling initiative with Recycling Namibia Forum and Surge Sustainability. A caretaker at the waste collection point sorts recyclable materials into bags stored within the rubbish collection point, and sells them to a local entrepreneur (who then sends them to South Africa). When people deposit their rubbish, the caretaker educates them on what materials can be recycled, and volunteers reinforce the message during household visits.

September’s results were very promising: the caretaker filled 20 one-tonne bags and earned over 4000 NAD. By the end of the year, the programme hopes to expand the initiative to its other three collection points in Windhoek, and will research feasibility of recycling in other towns.


See following website for GIS mapping of volunteer house visits, toilets constructed by residents, and project sanitation centres: https://development-workshop-data-hub-dwn.hub.arcgis.com/


The urban sanitation programme uses the internationally-successful CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation) method. CLTS focuses on making informal settlement areas open defecation free (ODF) and litter free. The approach of the programme is twofold. It aims to:

1. Motivate citizens to improve hygiene-related behaviours

2. Give guidance and encourage toilet construction

The program is active in 8 towns throughout Namibia: Windhoek, Karibib, Swakopmund, Otjiwarongo, Oshakati, Oniipa and Opuwo, and will extend to an additional 7 towns in 2022. A network of over 100 volunteers conducts house-to-house visits and distributes flyers that raise awareness on Covid-19, hygiene and toilet construction. A total of 9 informal settlement areas are currently being engaged to become ODF by the end of 2021.

In parallel, DWN constructs sanitation centres with demonstration toilets and construction guidelines. In the last quarter, 7 sanitation centres were constructed: Opuwo (1), Otijwarongo (1), Windhoek (2), Oshakati (1) and Katima Mulilo (2). These centers will all provide caretakers an income through payments for toilet use and sales of hygiene-related and other goods.