Dieu Linh Nguyen, GIZ, Vientiane, Laos

Presentation Title: Rethinking improved access to sanitation for The urban population in a changing climate? An analysis of the urban poor in slum areas in toward explaining variation in access to improved sanitation



Little attention has been paid to the inequality of access to improved sanitation between the urban poor and the urban non-poor. In a progress report on drinking water and sanitation issued by WHO and UNICEF in 2010, there is no mention of the issue of inequality in access to improved sanitation in urban areas. The current reports that show relatively high average percentages of urban populations provided with better sanitation facilities may be misleading. There is a lack of statistical analysis on the variation of access to improved sanitation between the urban poor living in informal settlements and the urban non-poor. This is surprising as the UNDP Human Development Report reveals that access to improved sanitation lags far behind access to water and is off-track to meet the Millennial Development Goals on both. This presentation contributed empirical evidence on the relationship between urban populations and access to improved sanitation controlling for urban populations living in slums.

Key Lessons Learned

  • Africa is among the most off-track with respect to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on sanitation.
  • The percentage of population in urban areas is not an adequate predictor of improved access to sanitation.
  • Current data on improved sanitation coverage, particularly in urban areas, is exaggerated due to incomplete data on the millions of people living in slums.

Policy/Practice Implications of Research

  • Urban slum dwellers are often not represented in census data and must be addressed when global assessment reports are prepared.
  • Livable cities initiatives and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must address urban sanitation in slums. 

Knowledge Gaps and Needs

  • As most studies in the literature are qualitative and not at the global scale, more statistical evidence is needed to explain differences (intra-urban and city-city) in access to improved sanitation of the urban poor.
  • More research and comparative analyses are needed on urban slums and sanitation in developing countries – especially at the global scale and in the context of climate change.
  • How can global assessment reports more adequately reflect the real situation of urban access to improved sanitation?
  • How can there be greater equity in communicating the results of the research to the public and policymakers?
  • How can the SDGs openly address sanitation in slums?