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International Development Research @ Cambridge


WSUP (Water & Santiation for the Urban Poor) has helped transforming cities to benefit the millions who lack access to water and sanitation since 2005. This research project, commissioned under WSUP’s Urban Sanitation Research Initiative, aims to identify key criteria determining whether a shared toilet in an urban context can be considered of high quality.

This research will be centrally based on extensive survey of shared toilets and their users across cities in Bangladesh, Ghana and Kenya. This research has its roots in the current official judgement of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme that shared toilets are to be considered at best a “limited” solution and cannot be included within the higher category “basic”. But as outlined in a 2017 editorial in the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development (reference in main text of this Call), shared toilets are the only possible solution (short of rehousing) for the millions of slum-dwellers who live in dwellings which are too small for a private toilet; as a result, there is a risk that the JMP’s exclusion of shared toilets from the “basic” category may perversely incentivise donor agencies and governments not to allocate resource to slum sanitation.

However, many shared toilets are indeed of unacceptable quality, and at the same time there is uncertainty about criteria which can be used to distinguish between shared toilets of unacceptable quality and of acceptable/high quality: so even though it is widely accepted that high-quality shared toilets are an appropriate solution in some slum contexts, there is uncertainty about how “high-quality” should be defined.

These issues are relevant internationally (to JMP judgements, to donor agency policies, etc), but also very relevant nationally within Bangladesh, Ghana and Kenya: in all three countries, shared sanitation is widespread, and there is strong national interest in better understanding when and how to promote and support shared sanitation solutions.

Against this backdrop, this research will aim to identify and explore key determinants of high-quality shared sanitation, on the basis of extensive survey of shared toilets and their users across cities in Bangladesh, Ghana and Kenya, alongside qualitative studies. We would expect this research to deliver both rich qualitative exploration and large-sample quantitative analysis. We would expect research that delivers both a) detailed empirical assessment of the drivers and determinants of user experience, and b) analysis to identify criteria that can provide the basis for implementing and policy setters to define minimum standards for high-quality sanitation, as a basis for high-level progress monitoring, for funding decisions, and for programme design/implementation.

Maximum budget: GBP 300,000


WSUP harnesses the expertise and sector leading knowledge of the private sector, NGOs and research institutions, working as a professional partner to service providers in the delivery of water and sanitation programmes.

Please find further information and apply here.

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Cambridge Global Challenges is the Strategic Research Initiative (SRI) of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, with a particular focus on the poorest half of the world’s population.


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