46% of Tanzanians lack access to improved drinking water and 87% have no access to improved sanitation. 20% of the population wash hands with soap before preparing food and 16% are practicing open defecation. Alarmingly, 56 pupils on average share one latrine in public and private primary schools nationwide. 84% of the schools do not have functional hand washing facilities. Water borne diseases like cholera, malaria, trachoma, bilharziasis and diarrhoea are on the increase in Tanzanian communities. Children are the most affected. These diseases not only affect their physical development but also school attendance and academic performance.
When it comes to serving the urban poor, research shows that most municipal governments in developing countries prioritise portable water provisioning over sewage removal. Water is usually provided via community taps (standpipes shared by a group of households) that have led to improved availability of portable water to many slum settlements. However, it is in what we refer to as ‘the last 100 meters’ where water is carried from standpipe to home that problems arise. Unserved by sewerage systems, slum-dwellers rely on toilets draining into poorly constructed pits or septic tanks. The settlements are commonly located on low-lying and poorly drained lands, and the dwellers lack awareness of and provisions for safe handling and disposal of faeces, resulting in leakage of faecal material into local environments. Through various pathways (e.g. dirty buckets, unwashed hands, insect and rodent vectors) potable water and food is contaminated, causing ill-health.
BRAC in Tanzania, through our water, sanitation and hygiene programme is implementing a research project on Safeguarding Potable Water Provisioning to Urban Informal Settlements “The Last 100 meters” in collaboration with Lancaster University of UK and a network of institutions including the University of Manchester, the University of Dhaka, Ardhi University, CSE, WaterAid and DSK. The research is funded by the British Academy through its Global Challenge Research Fund.
The 16 months research project is developed on the rationale that, the last two decades have seen much improvements to potable water supply to millions of poor urban people across the developing world. However potential benefits of improved water supply are severely compromised by sewage contamination at a critical zone around the point of use – ‘the last 100 meters’- where water is taken from the standpipe to home.
The research addresses a critical challenge about how to transform water and sanitation infrastructure and practice in a relatively small space leading to measurable improvements to quality of water and sanitation management for poor urban people.