CEO message: Adapting our work in the face of unprecedented challenges

Themes: Climate change Health impact Hygiene Sanitation Utilities WASH Water

WSUP’s Chief Executive, Neil Jeffery, on how we have been adapting to what was a very unusual year.

2020 was a complex and difficult year. However, it was inspiring to see how our global team, supporters and partners pulled together in the face of unprecedented challenges.

Given the impact of the worldwide pandemic, the relevance of our work for low-income urban residents globally has never been clearer, and its value never greater. Our analysis and understanding of long-term continuous water supply and utility strengthening have never been more in demand from governments and partners.

Asha Ali resident of Mombasa

Improving water supply for residents in Mombasa

While we all look forward to what the New Year will bring, it is worth taking some time to reflect on how we responded to what was a very unusual and challenging year for all of us.

Over the last year, we have had to re-orient the business, revise operational plans, change our working practices, strengthen our technology systems, and support our staff through shifting global conditions. Most importantly we have had to act at all times with an awareness of our responsibility not to increase risks for the urban communities that we work with.

We drew upon our experience of implementing major handwashing campaigns, combined with our unique relationship of trust with local utilities, to deliver rapid customer focused targeted communication to combat the spread of Covid-19.

WSUP is a lead partner in multiple cities in Kenya and Ghana for the delivery of the UK government and Unilever initiative – Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC).

Blog: Handwashing in 2020: Working with utilities to protect the most vulnerable

Provision of handwashing products through the HBCC programme. Credit: Brian Otieno

We are delivering targeted messaging in each city, using our detailed knowledge of utility customer billing, digital messaging, and mass communication to enhance the scale, speed and efficiency of impact. For example, Nairobi Water provides bills and payments by SMS and M-Pesa platforms to customers in the city’s informal settlements, about 70% of the urban population, which gives us an excellent opportunity to target specific COVID messaging to low-income households.

Find out more about WSUP’s response to Covid-19

Many institutions have made commendable efforts to respond to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with significant investment being directed towards ensuring water is available to all. However, it is worth reflecting on whether these efforts are the most appropriate mechanisms to facilitate better response to future emergencies. WSUP’s Director of WASH Sector Support, Kariuki Mugo, discusses ways that we could all be better prepared in this article.

WSUP is working with the utility JIRAMA in Madagascar to build their capacity and help them deliver higher-quality services. Credit: Tsilavo Rapiera

Alongside the implementation of these immediate measures described above, WSUP continues to focus on promoting the long-term availability of financially viable water supplies, particularly for the poorest residents in cities

Learn more about our steps on creating water solutions that will last

In 2020, WSUP continued to advance progress against its Strategic Goals established in our Business Plan 2020-2025, even in the face of Covid-19. We continued to scale up our award-winning SWEEP business model in Bangladesh which allows low-income customers to access high quality sanitation emptying services at an affordable price point, whilst maintaining the profit margin of local enterprises.

Report: A meeting of mindsets for SDG success

Rangpur citywide inclusive sanitation photoshoot (1)

Marketing SWEEP in Rangpur, Bangladesh

Amid heightened global attention on maintenance of continuous water supply to all city residents, WSUP continues to work through our Utility Strengthening Framework to help utilities manage these heightened challenges.

WSUP also continues to encourage governments and municipalities to invest in stronger utilities and embrace the transformative power of great customer service. Quite simply, individuals will pay for a service that they value, and will value a service that they pay for.

Report: Climate resilience in southern Zambia

We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all our supporters and partners for their continued assistance and encouragement in these challenging times.

Despite the difficult situation we find ourselves in right now, we remain optimistic that 2021 will be a year of renewed opportunities and hope, with much to be achieved. We continue to strive towards our commitment to bring clean water, safe sanitation, and hygiene to people who need it the most.

If you share this commitment, please support our work by donating here.