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  • Awarded: 2014
  • Issue Areas: Clean Water · Health · Living Conditions · Sanitation · Water Management
  • Countries Served: Bangladesh · Ghana · India · Kenya · Madagascar · Mozambique · Zambia
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    About the Organization

    Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) is a not-for-profit company that helps transform cities to benefit the millions who lack access to water and sanitation.

    WSUP was created in 2005 as a response to the urban explosion that has left many cities unable to provide basic services, such as access to a toilet or drinking water, to low-income communities. They work alongside local providers, enabling them to develop services, build infrastructure, and attract funding so that they can reach low-income communities.

    WSUP has a permanent presence in six countries and implements work on a project basis through their consultancy arm, WSUP Advisory. As the urban specialist in water and sanitation, WSUP is committed to sharing evidence and approaches so that their innovations can enable change around the world.

    Since inception, WSUP has helped 15 million people access improved water and sanitation services.

    In August 2017, Skoll Foundation invested US $2 million into WSUP’s SWEEP partnership in Bangladesh: an initiative which is enabling the private sector to provide fecal sludge management services in multiple cities, with the potential to benefit millions of low-income residents.

    Sanitation services can often be improved through the involvement of the private sector, through partnerships with the public sector.

    Strengthening citywide service providers, such as the Lusaka Water & Sewerage Company (LWSC) in Zambia, is a key part of delivering improved services for the poorest urban residents.

    Water bought from informal vendors is often unsafe and expensive. WSUP finds ways to connect residents in low-income communities to formal water networks, leading to cheaper, and safer, water access.

    Rapid urbanisation has left millions of people in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa without access to basic services like water and sanitation.

    Ambition for Change

    We seek to change the way that cities provide access to water and sanitation for low-income communities, improving health and living standards for the poorest residents.

    Path to Scale

    Build Capacity in Existing Systems

    Capacity building of service providers, such as utilities, municipal authorities and the private sector to enable creation and roll-out of financially viable services. Regulators and governments act to create an enabling environment which can support citywide coverage.

    Sam Parker started his career in business, working in the agrochemical industry. His path to becoming the first CEO of Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) started on a business trip to Brazil, where a visit to a safe house for street children inspired him to start a foundation that taught him the difficulties of systems change and the importance of community engagement. He returned to business for another decade but came back to his passion for helping children with a role at International Save the Children Alliance, and then joined WSUP in 2006. He led WSUP’s development of incentives for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) providers to serve low-income areas, and means for residents of those areas to own and manage their own utility systems, through a “toolkit” of business and management models, technical assistance, and access to finance.   At the time of the Award, this had led to access to clean water for more than a million people in six countries, and safe sanitation for more than 350,000. WSUP was providing advisory services to large institutions such as the European Investment Bank and the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program. Sam left WSUP in early 2015 and was succeeded as CEO by Neil Jeffery, an expert on provision of sustainable energy to low-income consumers, and former director of Renewable World.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • Working with 10 utilities across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to set up dedicated teams that focus on serving low-income communities, benefiting millions of city residents.
    • A partnership with the national utility JIRAMA has enabled one-third of the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar, to benefit from an improved water supply.
    • Creation of the first financially viable fecal sludge management service in Bangladesh – enabling harmful human waste to be removed from low-income communities and be safely treated.

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