Mbale Water and Sanitation unit

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Focus Areas: Water & Sanitation

This sanitation unit includes toilets, showers and water points that serve the informal settlement of Mission Settlement in Namakwekwe, Mbale. This area is inhabited by very low income earners with a severe lack of access to basic services. The unit has helped upgrade the slum and recognize the role of slum dwellers in basic service provision in the entire municipality. 

Location: Mission Settlement, Mbale, Uganda


The initial plan was achieved though there are still delays to the completion of the community hall due to a shortage of funds. The Federation constructed six (6) stances toilets, two (2) showers, a urinal and unit for PWD plus a small store.

Community capacity:

The community has continued to show their capacity in the management of the sanitation unit. There is a caretaker charged with the responsibility of day-to-day management and collections and the Project Management Committee (PMC) provides progress reports to the council, Federation leaders and the saving group where the unit sits. The Federation in Mbale has used the skills harnessed in the project to lobby for projects under the Transforming the Settlements of hte Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) initiative, which is a community upgrading fund. 


The plan to expand to other regions where the Federation exists was achieved when sanitation units were put up in Mbarara and other towns. This sanitation unit gave the Federation a platform to participate in the just concluded TSUPU program where they constructed sanitation units in different settlements within Mbale municipality.


The project initiation, planning, and implementation procedures have served as proof to Government that communities have the capacity and should, thus, be involved in planning and budgeting for municipal infrastructure upgrading programs. The project has enhanced the collaborations in TSUPU as the Federation is now the leader of all project identification activities throughout the municipality to be supported by CUF. Waiving fees and other mandatory requirements is an added policy adjustment the project has made.

The project demonstrates a new model for communities to access and manage social services but also sets a framework for income generation as a model for social business. The government has contributed technical support and has waived municipal fees for this project. The community contributed land and labor.

Since the completion of the ground floor and the subsequent launch, the Federation’s best practices have spread and more and more people are interested in becoming members. This explains the increase in the number of groups from forty-eight (48) before the project to fifty-four (54), which is a great achievement.

The Council has also continued to work with the Federation in Mbale and has made them permanent members in council meetings. They are invited to attend crucial meetings such as budget conferences putting the Federation at a different level altogether.

The Mbale Council is also receptive in awarding projects proposed by the Federation due to the success of this single project. The Mbale Federation has proposed several sanitation unit projects under the second phase of TSUPU which they hope to manage and improve the sanitary conditions of Mbale city.

The water project under this programme also serves the Mission community with clean water unlike in the past where they would walk long distances seeking water. Water is sold at UGX100 per jerry can. Different community voices indicate that cases of water borne diseases have dramatically reduced. Cases of drawing water from open contaminated springs and run-offs have greatly reduced. 


SDI Contributions:

SDI Contribution:$25,127

State Subsidy:

The State subsidy was in the form of technical support.

Market Generated Returns:

None to date.

Costs recovered from community:

3,510,000 Ugandan Shillings have been repaid by the community to date. 

Skye Dobson (+256) 312 107 643 View Website
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Project information updated: 26 October 2015

Project in depth

Detailed Information

The Federation’s 2011 enumeration survey revealed that over fifty percent (53.3%) of slum residents in Mbale do not have access to a toilet on their compound, whilst 79.3% do not have access to sanitation. Mission Settlement alone has one thousand two hundred and sixteen (1,216) families. Only 6.4% (n = 443) have access to sanitation. The Federation members saw this as a priority for the community because the present situation gives rise to tremendous health challenges to local communities. Cholera and dysentery occurred regularly as communities were forced to relieve themselves in plastic bags that are disposed in the drainage system. There were also small tent-like structures that were used as latrines, but in such cases the waste runs down hills and into the water supply on a daily basis. This project was also prioritized because it will not only improve the sanitation in Mission Settlement but also generate income for the urban poor Federations.
The Federation in Mbale worked very closely with the Mbale municipal council to mobilize and organize the people to address this challenge through a number of interventions. The community identified a piece of land to put up a sanitation unit (both toilet and shower facilities) and a community center to support the affected families and the community.

The project was the first of its kind in Mbale and the federation demonstrated that community generated data  can lead to project identification and later on ownership of sustainable projects. This project went ahead to set a precedent for partnership with municipal officials and enabled the Federation to gain the confidence of municipal officials in management of different projects like TSUPU.

The project has benefitted approximately eight hundred (800) slum dweller households in Mission Settlement who previously had no access to toilets and shower areas. The project has been boosted by a contribution from the Municipality in the form of municipal fee waivers and technical supervision and a transportation vehicle for materials during construction. The community contributed the land and labour.


The initial plan was to construct a sanitation unit with 6 stances, 2 showers, urinals and a stance for PWD. A community hall was planned for the second floor. It  also had a small store and water point.

Community capacity:

The plan was for the local community to participate in the project through provision of unskilled labour, monitoring the construction process, project management and also provision of progress reports to the Council.


Initially, the idea was to scale the sanitation units across the country in areas in which the Federation operates. The project would demonstrate the capacity of the Federation to participate in the World Bank’s municipal infrastructure upgrading project as well as the second phase of the Community Upgrading Fund where the Federation sought community contracting to allow them to participate in the establishment of projects.


The project initiation, planning, and implementation procedures were intended to serve as proof to Government that communities have the capacity (and resources) and should, thus, be involved in planning and budgeting for municipal infrastructure upgrading programs.


SDI Contributions:

SDI Contribution:$25,127.

State Subsidy:

Land and technical support.

Market Generated Returns:

Toilet fees, water fees and hall rental.

Costs recovered from community:

Repayments from user fees over six (6) years at 8% per annum.

Republic of Uganda. (). Transforming the Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU). [Online]. Available:
World Bank. (2010). Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU): A Secondary Cities Support Programme - A Partnership between Cities Alliance and the Government of Uganda. [Online]. Available:

Funding Information



Implementing Partners

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency)

AcTogether Uganda

National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU)