Determinants of quality of shared sanitation facilities in informal settlements : case study of Kisumu, Kenya

Simiyu, Sheillah ; Swilling, Mark ; Cairncross, Sandy ; Rheingans, Richard (2017)

CITATION: Simiyu, S., et al. 2017.Determinants of quality of shared sanitation facilities in informal settlements: case study of Kisumu, Kenya. BMC Public Health, 17:68, doi:10.1186/s12889-016-4009-6.

The original publication is available at

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.


ENGLISH SUMMARY : Background: Shared facilities are not recognised as improved sanitation due to challenges of maintenance as they easily can be avenues for the spread of diseases. Thus there is need to evaluate the quality of shared facilities, especially in informal settlements, where they are commonly used. A shared facility can be equated to a common good whose management depends on the users. If users do not work collectively towards keeping the facility clean, it is likely that the quality may depreciate due to lack of maintenance. This study examined the quality of shared sanitation facilities and used the common pool resource (CPR) management principles to examine the determinants of shared sanitation quality in the informal settlements of Kisumu, Kenya. Methods: Using a multiple case study design, the study employed both quantitative and qualitative methods. In both phases, users of shared sanitation facilities were interviewed, while shared sanitation facilities were inspected. Shared sanitation quality was a score which was the dependent variable in a regression analysis. Interviews during the qualitative stage were aimed at understanding management practices of shared sanitation users. Qualitative data was analysed thematically by following the CPR principles. Results: Shared facilities, most of which were dirty, were shared by an average of eight households, and their quality decreased with an increase in the number of households sharing. The effect of numbers on quality is explained by behaviour reflected in the CPR principles, as it was easier to define boundaries of shared facilities when there were fewer users who cooperated towards improving their shared sanitation facility. Other factors, such as defined management systems, cooperation, collective decision making, and social norms, also played a role in influencing the behaviour of users towards keeping shared facilities clean and functional. Conclusion: Apart from hardware factors, quality of shared sanitation is largely due to group behaviour of users. The CPR principles form a crucial lens through which the dynamics of shared sanitation facilities in informal settlements can be understood. Development and policy efforts should incorporate group behaviour as they determine the quality of shared sanitation facilities.

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