Provision of basic services: solid waste management

Review of the virtual exchange for Sub Saharan Africa on 29th October 2020

Photo: Charday Penn | istock

Effective solid waste management service is vital in ensuring a sanitary environment for any population. With changes in lives and partial or total lock-downs, the provision of this crucial service was interrupted. With the spread of the virus, the general public is now using a lot of medical equipment including surgical gloves and masks. The unsafe disposal of this waste including the increase of medical waste, increases the risks and hazards especially to the waste handlers both formal and informal.

The virtual session on the 29th of October, 2020 was to highlight the issues that cities/municipalities are grappling with to ensure that this service is adequately provided, the workers are safe, and minimize the spread of the virus through the medical waste. Through cross-pollination kind of exchange between cities/municipalities in SSA and Kosovo, a very insightful discussion was experienced. 14 participants from Ghana, Kenya, Kosovo and Zambia with representatives from Nairobi, Kisumu, Accra, Kiambu, Gjilan and Vushtrri cities/ municipalities actively engaging.


5 presentations from cities/municipalities and input from UNEP defined the discussions. The presentations were from Nairobi City, Accra, Municipality of Vushtrri, Municipality of Gjilan and then we got the recommendations from UNEP on how cities can improve solid waste management during the pandemic. The session was moderated and provided an opportunity for discussion and exchange among the participants. The cities/municipalities sought to answer the following questions:

  1. What have been the core challenges for the municipalities?
  2. What measures have municipalities put in place?
  3. How do the municipalities deal with vulnerable groups which were most affected by the pandemic?
  4. Have there been any lessons learned already for long term strategies to improve cities’ resilience (i.e. preparedness for pandemics or similar events in the future)?


Solid waste management in Nairobi during the Covid-19 period
Ms. Patricia Akinyi

Covid-19 and solid waste management in Ghana
Ms. Charlotte Akwaah-Adjei

Current situation in the Municipality of Vushtrri – waste management system
Mayor Xhafer Tahiri

Solid waste management in the Municipality of Gjilan
Mayor Lutfi Haziri

UNEP’s recommendation to cities on solid waste management
Mr. Muhammed Omotola


Different cities/municipalities are at different levels in solid waste management with Municipalities like Vushtrri having waste separation and recycling practices. Nairobi City had a lot to learn from the two municipalities in Kosovo. Cities need to be intentional about continuous improvement in the waste management chain. With the rich and diverse input, the discussions were beneficial.

The highlights of the session were:

  • The pandemic led to increase in domestic waste as lock downs loomed and also use of medical equipment (masks & gloves) by the public.
  • Financial constraints were a hindrance to ensuring timely provision of this basic service. There is need for budgeting and allocation of resources.
  • Intensive communication and education of the public and the municipal staff on proper handling of waste including promoting waste separation even at household level.
  • Digitalization of systems and procedures to minimize contact including payment for services.
  • Need for effective environmental policies and guidelines on management of waste especially the hazardous medical waste.
  • Coordination of the different levels of government and other sector players.
  • How past pandemics/ disasters have helped municipalities like Gjilan prepare for covid-19. We shouldn't waste this pandemic and instead use the lessons learnt to prepare for future emergencies.
  • Establishing of emergency preparedness facilities and crisis management teams.


Sophia Kamau | Connective Cities

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