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The place of subsidy: affordable sanitation service delivery in slums of Kumasi, Ghana


A key contributor to the growing levels of morbidity, mortality and poverty in slum settlements has been attributed to lack of basic sanitation services. To curb this menace, various scholars suggest the delivery of affordable sanitation services. However, there appears to be a misfit between the nature of sanitation services provided and households’ ability to pay for the service. The paper investigates the sanitation service affordability situation in informal settlements in Kumasi in order to set a clear criteria for measuring affordable sanitation services in slum settlements with specific emphasis on the socio-economic factors of households and the nature and characteristics of sanitation service provided. Using the cross-sectional design, data was obtained from 398 households, sampled from two (2) study suburbs—Aboabo and Ayigya. The study revealed that most households in slum settlements in Kumasi have no household toilets thus access shared toilet facilities. Majority of these households use public toilets. The study showed that it is unaffordable for households without a household toilet facility to access a toilet facility compared to households with a toilet facility. Again, it was found that it is unaffordable to construct a toilet facility in these slum communities. The study concludes on the need to prioritize the provision of affordable sanitation service to low-income earners (including providing subsidy mechanisms) and also harness potentials possessed by actors involved in the delivery of affordable sanitation service to informal settlements.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Source: Authors’ Field Survey, 2019

Fig. 3

Source: Authors’ Field Survey, 2019

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Fig. 5


  1. Zongo communities is defined as migrant communities found in every urban center in Ghana with heterogenous ethnic groups with the majority been Muslims (Casentini 2018; Afranie 2013).

  2. Refers to a plastic bag that is used as a simple collection device for human faeces when there is a lack of proper toilets. The filled and tied plastic bags are then discarded in ditches or on the roadside, or simply thrown as far away as possible.

  3. An elected committee in charge of the smallest level of local administration in Ghana.

  4. A Bank of Ghana exchange rate of GH₵5.65 to US$1 as at June 19, 2020 was adopted for the conversion.

  5. Institutional toilets are toilets facilities located in institutional settings such as schools, churches, mosques, healthcare facilities and workplaces (WHO/UNICEF JMP 2015).


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Doe, B., Aboagye, P.D. The place of subsidy: affordable sanitation service delivery in slums of Kumasi, Ghana. GeoJournal 87, 295–317 (2022).

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  • Urbanization
  • Affordability
  • Sanitation services
  • Informal settlements
  • Kumasi