COVID-19: A turning point to further sanitation justice?


  • Adriana Allen University College London, Development Planning Unit
  • Pascale Hofmann University College London, Development Planning Unit
  • Nelly Leblond University College London, Development Planning Unit
  • Julian Walker University College London, Development Planning Unit
  • Wilbard Kombe Ardhi University
  • Claudy Vouhé L’Être égale
  • Robin Bloch COWI
  • Braima Koroma Njala University and Sierra Leone Urban Research Center (SLURC)
  • Colin Marx University College London, Development Planning Unit
  • Sulaiman Foday Kamara Sierra Leone Urban Research Center (SLURC)
  • Georgina Montserrat Petit COWI
  • Tim Ndezi Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI)
  • Sandra de Castro Roque COWI
  • Catarina Simões Mavila COWI
  • Ibrahim Bakarr Bangura Sierra Leone Urban Research Center
  • Festo Dominic Makoba Centre for Community Initiatives
  • Ilundi Polonia Cabral COWI
  • Richard Prosper Ardhi University


gendered sanitation trajectories, urban Africa, Intersectionality, wastewater, epidemiology, COVID-19


Sanitation has received increased attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the heterogeneity of infrastructures, investments, practices and needs that exist on the ground, have often been overlooked. Consequently, the intersecting inequalities shaping how COVID-19 and sanitation interact remain unaddressed. This paper suggests it is possible to move beyond ‘deficit narratives’, and to support pathways towards just sanitation for all women and men, girls and boys during and beyond the pandemic. Tracking down past, ongoing and projected sanitary arrangements, exploring the political economy of both grid and off-grid investments and promises, and paying attention to the diversity of needs and practices from an intersectional perspective that considers, among other things, class, gender, age, ethnicity and ability, are three directions to do so. Together, these three directions can account for how illness or health, poverty or prosperity, suffering or well-being, stigma or respect are generated for different people who are dependent on, or who are providing, sanitation services. COVID-19 marks a turning point to critically reframe how we talk and act upon just sanitation and to challenge long-term inequalities.


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