Sanitation remains the most off-track of all Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with 2.5 billion people lacking access to safe sanitation that ensures health and dignity. The challenges of defining and monitoring safely managed sanitation services are even more difficult than the challenges associated with safely managed drinking water services. Over half the world’s population now lives in urban areas; by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people.

In addition, the MDG target does not take into account the sustainable management of excreta from containment, including emptying, transport, treatment and safe disposal or resource recovery, thus hiding a much larger problem. Globally, 2.6 billion people rely on non-sewered systems to meet sanitation needs, which generate a mix of solid and liquid wastes generally termed ‘faecal sludge’ (FS). In particular, for years to come, the majority of poor urban people will continue to depend on on-site sanitation systems with either missing, or grossly inadequate faecal sludge management (FSM). These same people are also those who suffer most from an urban environment polluted with human excreta (adapted from Peal et al, 2015).
In addition, in the relatively few cities in low-income countries where sewerage is provided, it is often defective, with broken down pumping stations, leakage from broken pipes and ineffective treatment further adding to the problem as untreated wastewater (WW) discharges to the environment. In short, only a small percentage of excreta - as either faecal sludge or wastewater - is managed and treated appropriately. Alongside other urban sanitation challenges, excreta management requires strong city-level oversight and an enabling environment that drives coordinated behaviors across the sanitation service chain.

SFDs can help to achieve this by offering a new and innovative way to engage sanitation experts, political leaders and civil society in coordinated discussions about excreta management in their city.


Peal, A., Evans, B., Blackett, I., Hawkins, P., Heymans, C. (2015). A Review of Fecal Sludge Management in 12 Cities - Unpublished Report (Final Draft). World Bank - Water and Sanitation Program

  • Online course by CSE in July 2018

    The Centre for Science and Environment is launching an online course on the preparation of Shit Flow Diagrams (SFDs). You can find out more on their website and apply by June 10th.

  • SFD PI Update 7

    Live Q&A, training events, reports, publications... - Check out the latest developments of the SFD Promotion Initiative on the SuSanA Forum

  • New SFD Report available from Patna, India

    Check out how the city of Patna, located at the Southern banks of river Ganga, manages its sanitation!

    Read its new SFD Report!

  • New SFD Report available from Tikapur, Nepal

    Find out more on the sanitation practices in Tikapur:

    98% on-site sanitation technologies (pit latrines, septic tanks, biogas digesters)

    2%  open defecation

  • Material of the Question & Answer session available

    Any questions about SFDs? Watch our recent Q&A session about SFDs 

    1. Presentation: The SFD Manual - a guide to content and process

    2. Presentation: The SFD Review Procedure

    3. Presentation: The SFD Helpdesk

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