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Lessons: Financing household on-site sanitation for the poor

Published on: 06/07/2011

Interesting key message emerge from a new Research Brief from a recent WSP/World Bank study to improve understanding of the financing of on-site sanitation at the household level through analysis of field experiences in six countries:  Bangladesh, Ecuador, India (Maharashtra), Mozambique, Senegal, Viet Nam.

In 2010, the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) and the World Bank conducted a study to improve understanding of the financing of on-site sanitation at the household level through analysis of field experiences in six countries:  Bangladesh, Ecuador, India (Maharashtra), Mozambique, Senegal, Viet Nam. Interesting key message emerge from a new Research Brief [1] that summarizes findings from the full report [2].

Key messages from the research are:

  • Public financing for “software” has a significant role to play in creating demand for improved sanitation and changing community and household behaviours. However, the amount and way such public support is financed can significantly affect the performance of sanitation projects and their impact.
  • Project designers should look beyond the semantics of simplistic “subsidy vs. no subsidy” debates to define an appropriate level and form of public investment in sanitation. The design of the financing approach at the outset of on-site sanitation programs is too often not given sufficient critical thinking. Answers to basic financial questions—“Who pays for what, when, and how?”—can determine the extent to which projects can replicate, expand sanitation, be sustainable, and meet household needs.
  • Well-targeted hardware subsidies can provide a critical safety net for the poor. Such subsidies should not be used as a substitute for hardware investments by households. Hardware subsidies that were most effective were provided after demand was created—and especially after outputs and/or outcomes were achieved.

[1] Tremolet, S.; Kolsky, P.; Perez, E.(2011). Financing household on-site sanitation for the poor : WSP Sanitation Global Practice Team. (Research Brief / Water and Sanitation Program (WSP)). Washington, DC, USA. Water and Sanitation Program, WSP. Downloadable document: WWW PDF [1299 KB]

[2] Tremolet, S. (2010). Financing on-site sanitation for the poor : a six country comparative review and analysis. (Technical paper / WSP). Washington, DC, USA, Water and Sanitation Program, WSP. Downloadable document: WWW Download PDF [2.35 MB]