Improving Rural Sanitation in Challenging Contexts

SLH Learning Briefs 8
March 2021

Of the two billion people worldwide lacking access to at least basic sanitation, seven out of 10 live in rural areas. Whilst progress has been made on increasing rural sanitation, as access levels rise, challenges remain in reaching the ‘last mile’ or some 10 to 20% of the population.

The factors affecting the ability of households to construct and use toilets, as well as the challenges sanitation programmes face in reaching specific groups, are highly diverse. Applying blueprint approaches has proven not to work, therefore more nuanced, adapted and targeted approaches are needed to ensure the universality element of the Sustainable Development Goals and that no one is left behind. However, it is recognised that challenges can be persistent and there are limited documented examples of how to overcome these challenges at scale.

The Sanitation Learning Hub (SLH), UNICEF and WaterAid commissioned a study to map rural sanitation approaches in challenging contexts and the guidance currently being used, drawing out emerging experiences and lessons. The initial landscaping study identifies gaps that need to be addressed and provides recommendations on how to address some of them. All three commissioning organisations aim to work with the wider sector to explore the gaps and opportunities in more detail in a second phase of this work.

This rapid desk review collated preliminary findings across five broad ‘categories’ of challenges: (i) poverty & social mobilisation, (ii) entrenched social norms & beliefs, (iii) tough physical environments, (iv) lifestyles & livelihoods and (v) fragile contexts. It involved Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) with 44 interviewees, and consulting over 180 documented resources.

This Learning Brief provides an overview of the study findings. The longer Learning Paper can be found here.

Additional details

PublisherInstitute of Development Studies
RegionEast and South East Asia, Southern Africa, The Pacific
ThemesBehaviour change, Challenging contexts, Climate change, Fragile contexts, Leave no one behind, Lifestyles and livelihoods, Social marginalisation, Sustainability and safely managed sanitation, Tough physical environments, Vulnerability, resilience and adaptation
ApproachesLearning approaches

Jones, O. and Tillett, W. (2021) ‘Improving Rural Sanitation in Challenging Contexts’ Sanitation Learning Hub Learning Brief 8, Brighton: IDS DOI: 10.19088/SLH.2021.006


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