Shared Sanitation Facilities: A Reality or Mirage?

Roland S. Kabange, Andrews Nkansah


Per current WHO/UNICEF JMP definition, improved sanitation facilities are those that are likely to ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact.  Improved sanitation facilities therefore exclude shared facilities of all types and open defecation.  Unimproved sanitation (shared, other unimproved and open defecation) constitutes 32% of global sanitation access.  Though shared sanitation facilities are not considered improved, current debate seeks to discount this and argues that non-shared sanitation facilities are virtually impossible in peri-urban settlements of mixed socio-cultural and religious settings with limited space for household sanitation construction, high poverty and population densities.  Lower sharing of sanitation facilities is generally associated with higher benefits to users. Sanitation facilities provision at lower sharing can provide comparable levels of health benefits as flush toilets for individual households if they are well operated and maintained, convenient and provide security.  We argue that though the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) led to significant sanitation coverage, the narrow improved sanitation definition is a constraint – particularly because shared sanitation may be viable option and able to promote health in poor communities.  This review concludes that the categorization of all shared facilities as unimproved is a misrepresentation of sanitation reality in poor communities, and has therefore hugely contributed to the low sanitation coverage recorded globally.  It is thus recommended that shared sanitation facilities at low sharing of 2 – 3 households per shared facility (depending on the household sizes) under good operation and maintenance culture be included in the improved sanitation category for low-income countries. 


shared sanitation facilities; sanitation; health benefits; improved sanitation; Ghana

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