Water Sanitation Health

Sanitation challenge: Turning commitment into reality

Mobilizing financial resources

Improving access to sanitation and changing hygiene behaviours provide large benefits to all members of society that justify the preferential use of financial resources by individuals, households, communities, governments and external agencies to fund sanitation and hygiene interventions. For countries with poor coverage, the focus should be on increasing access. This can be leveraged by steering public funding towards stimulating demand for sanitation and promoting hygienic practices in schools as well as at the household level; financing public and school sanitation services; and delivering targeted subsidies where these can be demonstrated to be effective in increasing access.

Although external support agencies can help with funding, governments will still need to contribute most of the resources to accelerate implementation of sanitation and hygiene programmes. Governments have a responsibility to spend scarce resources in the most cost-effective way, that is, to select programmes or technologies that provide maximum health benefits to the greatest number of people at the lowest cost. Where demand for sanitation exists, people are often willing to commit their own scarce financial and other resources to building sanitation facilities. Providing the right types of incentives, such as matching funds or gifts in-kind (for example, transportation of materials, supplying prefabricated sanitary platforms) may stimulate households or communities to build their own facilities.

What can we do?

National governments can allocate funds to sanitation and hygiene education and ensure their inclusion in poverty alleviation strategies and budgetary allocations; assess the effectiveness of different public spending programmes on increasing access; lobby external support agencies for discretionary terms for financing hygiene promotion and sanitation; provide financial incentives to local and district governments who can deliver efficient and effective sanitation and hygiene promotion programmes; develop and finance micro-credit schemes managed by local NGOs or the private sector to target households; and work with private sector lenders and product manufacturers to create programmes for extending credit to members of the most vulnerable communities.

District/local governments can review the effectiveness of sanitation and hygiene promotion programmes and ensure that funds are not used to finance high-cost, low-impact investments; make subsidy programmes clear and transparent; create incentives to develop new technologies to reduce costs and increase penetration; actively seek to stamp out corruption and waste; create micro-credit and credit guarantee programmes to target households; and provide incentives for local manufacturers to extend credit to the poorest households.

Communities and civil society can scrutinise public accounts and check on reported spending on sanitation and hygiene promotion to help increase accountability and reduce wastage; propose alternative institutional and technical approaches that could reduce costs and ensure that these are well-known and well-publicised; develop micro-credit schemes to fund household sanitation improvements; create synergies between sanitation and hygiene promotion and other developmental activities so that outreach workers can support households efficiently and at low cost; and create mechanisms for generating user fees for funding continuing operation and maintenance of facilities.

Households can find out how subsidised latrine programmes are supposed to work; get together in neighbourhood groups to lobby for subsidised services and then scrutinise progress and spending; complain when subsidies or sanitation programmes in general do not appear to be working as they should; participate in community schemes and/or micro-credit schemes; pay back loans to loan providers; and contribute maintenance fees to user groups.

Entrepreneurs can offer poor households low-interest credit to purchase their products; work with local governments, NGOs and/or banks to develop micro-credit schemes; and develop cost-effective products and services for poor communities and households.

International organisations and external funding agencies can allocate sufficient resources to the sector and mobilise other donors to contribute funds. Specialised agencies can compile and disseminate information on a variety of cost-effective sanitation alternatives and effective behaviour change strategies; and compile and disseminate information on effective programmes for mobilising financial resources, including micro-credit schemes, targeted subsidies and others.

We’re inspired by…

… the access revolution in Lesotho
Lesotho has increased sanitation coverage from 20% to approximately 53% over 20 years. During this time, policies have shifted away from subsidising latrines, and much more money is now channelled towards promotion and training. Key aspects include consistent significant allocation of the regular government budget to sanitation and earmarking of these funds for promotion, training local artisans and monitoring. In rural areas, government funds are also used to supply basic latrine components “at cost” to households and to support a 50% subsidy to school sanitation. The government also provides a subsidy through its operation of a loss-making pit-emptying service. No direct subsidies are provided to households. The sanitation budget is mainstreamed at district level in the health budget. While the allocations to sanitation have declined in recent years, the total investments made by households are estimated to range between 3 and 6 times the government contribution.

... effective subsidies in Mozambique
The national sanitation programme in Mozambique received significant funding from external support agencies for subsidised provision of the domed latrine slab. Donor funds accounted for a little more than 50% of the costs of the programme, with users contributing a little less than 40% and the government less than 10%. The ability of the programme to deliver the direct subsidy in a transparent manner and without massive overhead costs appears to have resulted in a cost-effective transfer of resources to households. The subsidies were effective because they were specifically linked to the delivery of the latrine slab, whose cost was the major barrier to many households accessing latrines at all. This understanding, developed through thorough research at the outset of the programme, resulted in a well-designed and targeted subsidy – and consequently an effective programme delivered at scale.

Sources: Pearson I (2002). The National Sanitation Programme in Lesotho: how political leadership achieved long-term results. Nairobi, Water and Sanitation Program-Africa Region (Field Note 5 in the Blue Gold Series);
Colin J (2002). The National Sanitation Programme in Mozambique: pioneering peri-urban sanitation. Nairobi, Water and Sanitation Program-Africa Region (Field Note 9 in the Blue Gold Series);
Saywell D (1999). Sanitation programmes revisited. London and Loughborough, WELL – Water and Environmental Sanitation (WELL Study Task No. 161).