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news | November 23, 2016 | Côte d'Ivoire | Emergency

Working together for sustainable sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire

ACTED Côte d'Ivoire - 2016

In 2013, in the district of Abidjan, ACTED, along with the European Union, launched a project to improve access to sanitation, fight against insalubrity and improve the living conditions of the inhabitants in three underprivileged neighbourhoods in the city.

Covering the absence of sanitation infrastructure

The poor conditions – and in some areas, the lack of – of the sanitation infrastructure in the underprivileged neighbourhoods of Abidjan are responsible for the propagation of a number of water-borne diseases such as cholera, yellow fever, and malaria. Since 2013, and with the support of the European Union, Fonds SUEZ Initiatives, and the Altadis Foundation, ACTED Côte d’Ivoire has been intervening in these areas in response to this sanitation crisis, helping vulnerable households have access to basic sanitation.

"This project came into being when our teams in the field observed serious problems due to poor sanitation and health in the underprivileged neighbourhoods," said Jérémy Lescot, the country director of ACTED Côte d’Ivoire, in an interview with Fond SUEZ Initiatives. "At least two million of the five million inhabitants of Abidjan district live in these neighbourhoods, and only 30% of them are connected to the main sewers. Most of them pour their household wastewater into the street, but they also use the streets as toilets, with disastrous effects on hygiene and the environment. In Ivory Coast, the number of deaths due to hydric diseases is more than 400 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with 100 to 200 in Ghana, for example."

The project comprises of a three-part operational scheme: sanitation, waste collection, and awareness-raising campaigns to promote good hygiene practices among the populations. In particular, ACTED has worked on the construction of a sanitation system, such as ecological latrines, sewer networks with small diameter drains at low-depth, and wash houses, to contribute to improving the sanitation and environmental conditions of these neighbourhoods.

A long-term vision to make populations more autonomous

In addition to the lack or the poor conditions of the sanitation infrastructure, a part of the population is ignorant of good practices of hygiene, which is another factor behind the spread of diseases. This is why ACTED is particularly striving to implicate the local community in order to progressively transfer the management of sanitation networks to them to guarantee the continuity of the project and its positive impact on the long-run. ACTED teams are mobilised to train the local populations and train them on the use of these structures, as well as raise their awareness on hygiene in general, through campaigns and adverts, theatre (playlets on hygiene practices performed in the street), and monthly home visits. “It is important to improve the sanitation conditions of these populations, but also, to especially empower them so they benefit from access to sanitation that is genuinely sustainable,” said Lescot.

In order to have a long-term sustainable impact, ACTED constituted – and accompanied - three micro-companies and three health and sanitation committees. The micro-companies perform three tasks that allow for their funding and their durability. They collect and resell natural fertilisers from composting toilets to local market gardeners. They also maintain the sewer networks with low diameter drains, as well as ensure the pre-collection of waste through the contributions of the local population. The establishment of these small businesses and hygiene committees allows to ensure that the infrastructure and the activities put in place by the project are sustained. About the project, Jérémy said, "One of the neighbourhoods is perfectly autonomous, and another is in the process of becoming so. Not a 100% success, but a fine success nevertheless."

*Read the full interview with Jérémy Lescot’s, country director of ACTED Côte d’Ivoire, on the website of Fonds SUEZ Initiatives.