Sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa

Sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faeces.
Poor sanitation is believed to be the main cause in some 280 000 of deaths.

A WHO study in 2012 calculated that for every US$ 1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of US$ 5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths (WHO, 2018).

Overview of sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa

In the sub-Saharan Africa region, more than 65% of households are not connected to a sewer system (AFWA, 2017). Some of them have access to onsite or decentralized sanitation systems (latrines and septic tanks) while others still rely on open air defecation. The quantities of fecal sludge to be pumped and transported are obviously important (EAWAG, 2001).
The smallest part of households that have access to sewage are mostly in the biggest cities.

Fecal sludge management is the heart of the issues

A large part of fecal sludge are released into the environment of cities without any prior treatment. It is believed to be the cause of health and environmental issues: diseases due to excreta and groundwater contamination (SEIDL, 2007).

Fecal sludge management is becoming the heart of environmental and sanitation issues. The current practice includes 4 steps:

  • onsite sanitation
  • Collection and transport of fecal sludge
  • Fecal sludge treatment
  • Fecal sludge reuse

Fecal Sludge Managment

Today’s challenges for the West African cities are:

  1. Onsite sanitation improvement
  2. Fecal sludge collection and transport services improvement
  3. Fecal sludge treatment



AfWA. 06/2017. Towards a large scale partnership program on fecal sludge management in the Sub-Saharien Africa Countries: rapid assessment reposrt of country sanitation status. The white paper on sanitation in Africa.

Agnès Montangero, Martin Strauss et Abdrahamane Dembélé. 2001. Gestion des boues de vidange : Parent pauvre de l’assainissement et défi à relever. EAWAG, SANDEC et EIER.

Martin SEIDL. 2007. Enjeux et pratiques de l’assainissement de l’assainissement en Afrique Sub-saharienne. CEREVE (ENPC-ENGREF-UPVM). 17èmes Journées Scientifiques de l’Environnement : le Citoyen, la Ville et l’Environnement, 23-24 mai 2006, Collection HAL Archives Ouvertes.

WHO. 2018.