Poor sanitation and unsanitary conditions constitute a threat to public health. Poor sanitation is an outcome not just of individual choice but also of the state of society and that increasing access to improved sanitation must consider political economy factors. Dr Aime Tsinda is the winner of a research grant for a project entitled “Political Economy Analysis of Sanitation in Informal Settlements in Eastern Africa”.
In his research, Tsinda analyses the influence of political economy and of sanitation governance on the performance of sanitation services (with the focus on finance and market-based solutions) in the East Africa with the focus on Kigali, Rwanda. The research is so important as it tackles issues that have direct linkages to a number of goals in the Sustainable Development Goals.
The research also aims to identify existing systems of finance available for the provision of sanitation products and services, and suggest solutions to improve urban sanitation through effective financing mechanisms while analysing broader solutions for improving sanitation in the urban informal settlements through market-based approaches. Research results suggest that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to improving sanitation in the urban informal settlements of East Africa; different strategies are needed for different places, and interventions need to be targeted at specific types of provision. There is also a mismatch between demand and supply of sanitation related products and services.
“A focus on only one side of the demand supply market by either increasing the demand for sanitation services or availability of the services may create a mismatch that is likely to undermine sustainability of the sanitation services” He noted. Tsinda calls for sanitation intervention to be focused on the households rather than the suppliers of sanitary products. It involves understanding consumers' needs, desires, habits and the circumstances required for a facility to be acceptable and meet the needs of users rather than what fits the supplier.
Moreover, evidence in the developing world shows that the provision of facilities does not guarantee proper usage. There is thus a need to empower users with knowledge to enable a change in behaviour, create demand for services, facilitate establishment of supply chains and improve the planning and implementation of hygiene and sanitation projects to ensure appropriate hardware interventions.
Dr Tsinda intends to publish his work through articles and policy briefs to inform on how communities can be empowered to improve sanitation and hygiene in their neighbourhoods.
By Darius Murangwa