Keeping promises report shows scale of sanitation crisis

WaterAid's new report, Keeping promises, highlights the need for African governments to follow through on their promises to improve sanitation and water systems.

6 Mar 2013

210 million more Africans lack access to sanitation than in 1990.

African Governments are failing to keep their funding promises on sanitation, a new WaterAid report has revealed. 

The report warns that unless investment is increased, the challenges of urbanisation, climate change and, most critically, population growth, risk turning the clock back on sanitation access even further(1).

From 1990 to 2010, the population of Sub-Saharan Africa grew by 340 million. Yet only 130 million people secured access to sanitation over the same period(2). In total nearly 600 million Sub-Saharan Africans - 70% of the population – are without access to a safe toilet(3).

The Keeping promises report uses official Government figures from five African Governments - Ghana, Niger, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Uganda – to show that funding on sanitation is falling short of government commitments across the continent.

In 2008, African Governments signed the eThekwini declaration, which committed them to spend at least 0.5% of their GDP on sanitation and hygiene, and to put in place separate budget lines for water and sanitation spending to improve accountability and track progress(4). Five years on, only one country, Equatorial Guinea, has been confirmed to have met the 0.5% funding commitment(5).

The report also highlights United Nations Development Programme estimates, that the shortfall in water and sanitation services cost sub-Saharan African countries up to 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) each year(6 & 7), which is more than is provided in development aid to the entire continent(8).

Nelson Gomonda, WaterAid Pan-Africa Programme Manager, said:

"Africans waste over 40 billion hours every year looking for somewhere to go to the toilet, and you can add to this the costs of illness and medical bills of those contracting diseases due to the unhygienic conditions. The total costs to African economies could be as much as US$55.6 billion per year

Now is the time for African governments to meet their financial commitments on sanitation, and end sanitation and water poverty, and its daily toll on human life, health and livelihoods."

The WaterAid report also calls on African governments to not only reach their 2008 eThekwini spending commitments of 0.5% of GDP, but to go further and meet the 1% of GDP sanitation spending recommended by a 2011 World Bank report(9).

Download the report here.

Media enquiries contact

Hratche Koundarjian, Senior Media Officer, WaterAid UK, [email protected], +44 (0)207 793 4909, +44 (0)7905 911 039.


  1. Keeping promises: why African leaders need now to deliver on their past water and sanitation commitments 
  2. A Snapshot of Drinking Water and Sanitation in Africa – 2012 Update, WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme, 2012
  3. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme 2012 Update report
  4. The eThekwini Declaration and AfricaSan Action Plan, African Union, AfricaSan, 2008
  5. AfricaSan 2011 traffic lights paper, WaterAid, 2011
  6. Human Development Report 2006, Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis, United Nations Development Programme, 2006
  7. World Bank National Accounts Data, GDP (current US$) Sub-Saharan Africa
  8. Development Aid at a Glance, Statistics by Region - 2. Africa 2012 edition OECD, 2012
  9. Africa's Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Access, Affordability, and Alternatives, World Bank, 2011