KHARTOUM: Sanitation Status

Sanitation provision in Khartoum (the capital of Sudan) is grossly deficient, as in most cities in sub-Saharan Africa: most people do not have access to a hygienic toilet; large amounts of faecal waste are discharged to the environment without adequate treatment; this is likely to have major impacts on infectious disease burden and quality of life (Hutton et al. 2007). This article briefly summarizes the current sanitation situation in Khartoum.

This page is part of the fully editable open-access reference source on the sanitation status of all major cities in sub-Saharan Africa.  The resource considers the 40 urban agglomerations in sub-Saharan Africa with a current population of 1 million or more. To read some of the other 40 country profiles, go back tothe resource Homepage

N.B These pages should be considered as incomplete provisional drafts, and contributions are actively requested from specialists with expert local knowledge of each specific city.

Table of Contents

Background information

Khartoum is an urban agglomeration with a population of about 5.7 million people (Brinkhoff 2010). It comprises three cities Khartoum, Khartoum North (al-Khartum Bahri) and Omdurman (Umm Durman). It is a flat inland city, altitude about 400 m above sea level, lying at the confluence of the White Nile and Blue Nile. Climate is hot desert (Köppen classification BWh). Some districts are severely affected by flooding (IFRC 2009; see also map in UN-Habitat 2009). Pollutant industries include petroleum refining, textiles and food processing. There is significant horticultural and livestock-rearing activity within the urban area (El-Siddig et al. 2006, Schumacher et al. 2009). A large proportion of the population lives in low-income settlements, including very poor informal settlements and refugee camps reflecting decades of civil conflict in Sudan.

Water resources and supply: overview

Water comes from both boreholes (aquifer 90-150 m deep) and from the rivers (Soman 2005). Water supply is managed by the Ministry of Physical Planning and the Khartoum State Water Corporation (UN-Habitat 2009). USAID (2009) states that there is a critical shortage of potable water in Greater Khartoum. A common solution in poor settlements is to pump from boreholes to an elevated tank which feeds communal standpipes; most people in poor settlements buy water from small-scale water vendors (Soman 2005). A 200-mld water treatment plant, drawing water from the Nile, is reportedly being built in Omdurman by a UK company, under contract from the Khartoum State Water Corporation, at a cost of 75 million US$ (Biwater 2010).

Sanitation access

Little information is available. UN-Habitat (2009) states that sanitation “has for a long time been dealt with at the individual level in Khartoum, without problems”, but that problems arise in areas with high densities (because of contamination of groundwater) and in areas where the weak soil makes the installation of pit latrines difficult; however, this report does not appear to be based on any detailed analysis of the sanitation situation. A recent report (Zakieldeen 2008) suggests that 28% of the population is connected to sewerage while the remainder use pit latrines or other facilities; again, there is no indication of the source of these estimates.  

Sewerage system

Khartoum is reported to have a sewerage system serving perhaps 28% help of the population, but we have no information on this system. News reports indicate that a major expansion of the network (500 km) is currently being constructed, along with a wastewater treatment plant (120,000 m3/day) and pumping stations: however, we have no independent confirmation of this.

Septage management (septage = nightsoil and/or sludge from onsite facilities)

No information.

Sewage treatment (sewage = sewered wastes and/or septage)

No information.

Sanitation in low-income districts

We are not aware of any detailed mapping of high-sanitation-need districts, or of any specific policy for sanitation improvement in informal settlements. A map of poor urban areas and categorization of settlment types is given by UN-Habitat (2009, p. 27). Over 2 million IDPs (internally displaced persons) live in greater Khartoum and over 270,000 are settled in four overcrowded refugee camps; as at 2004, the government was reported to be contributing to the problem by demolishing settlements (COHRE 2004).


No detailed information.

Sanitation masterplan?

No detailed information.

Sanitation financing

KSWC is heavily subsidized by government, and water users pay little or nothing for access and consumption (USAID 2009).

Major investments and donor interventions

Most external donor spending is directed at humanitarian relief investment in areas affected by the Civil War and by the ongoing Darfur conflict (USAID 2009); there is little donor spending in Khartoum. However, oil revenues are apparently allowing significant infrastructure investments by the Sudanese government itself (see e.g. MEED 2005, Biwater 2010); we have no information on whether these may benefit low-income populations.

Sources and further reading

Designing Wastewater Systems According to Local Conditions - David M Robbins 
Publication Date: Jan 2014 - ISBN - 9781780404769


Biwater (2010) Omdurman Water Treatment Plant Turnkey Construction, Sudan.

Brinkhoff T (2010) City Population.

COHRE [Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions] (2004) Sudan: SUDAN: Housing Rights Fact Sheet.

El-Siddig K et al. (2006) The status of urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) in Khartoum State, Sudan. Universität Kassel, Germany.

Hutton G, Haller L & Bartram J (2007) Economic and health effects of increasing coverage of low cost household drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to countries off-track to meet MDG target 10. Geneva, Switzerland, World Health Organization.

Soman SM (2005). Better access to water in informal settlements. Sharing (newsletter of Practical Action Sudan).

IFRC (2009) Sudan: Khartoum State Floods.

MEED (2005) “Khartoum welcomes BOO wastewater scheme”. News report 2 Dec 2005.

Schumacher J et al. (2009) Spatial expansion and water requirements of urban agriculture in Khartoum, Sudan. Journal of Arid Environments 73(4-5): 399-406. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2008.12.005.

UNEP/GRID-Arendal (2002)  Water availability in Africa. UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics Library.

UN-Habitat (2009) Urban Sector Studies and Capacity Building for Khartoum State.

USAID (2009) Sudan: Water and Sanitation Profile.

Zakieldeen SA (2008) Vulnerability of Khartoum city to climate change.

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19) KADUNA (Nigeria) 3

20) KAMPALA (Uganda) 3

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22) KHARTOUM (Sudan) 3

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36) PORT ELIZABETH (South Africa) 3

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