Building resilience in turbulent times
"In a year like no other, we can be enormously proud of the positive impact we had on people’s lives. Throughout COVID-19 and climate change, we kept our focus on building people’s resilience with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.
We were only able to achieve so much because of the incredible commitment of our partners and supporters. We are immensely grateful to everyone who helped us make such a difference."
- Chief Executive Tim Wainwright and Chair of Trustees Andy Green CBE
Our response to twin threats: COVID-19 and climate change
We started the year having already initiated a lot of work to help governments and communities prepare for, and respond to, the threat of the pandemic. During the year we built on these early interventions to protect people and push home the demonstrable value of clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene in securing better public health.
We implemented 59 projects in direct response to the pandemic, and installed over 4,100 new handwashing stations – of which more than 60% will stay permanently in place. COVID-related activity in just two of our multi-country projects – with The HEINEKEN Africa Foundation, and with Unilever and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – by themselves reached over 183 million people with mass media messages. These included training more than 1,100 people in hygiene behaviour change promotion, and distributing over 1,900,000 hygiene products.
We reached 11 million people in Nepal
With our mass media campaign, sharing essential messaging on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through loud speakers, radio, TV and social media channels. Our hygiene campaign work meant we were able to act quickly in the early days of the pandemic.
We also reached more than 780,000 people by installing 311 contactless handwashing facilities in healthcare facilities in the districts of Bardiya, Dolakha, Kathmandu, Kavre, Lalitpur and Siraha. Every day, a further 40,000 people used handwashing facilities that we installed in 140 stations in hospitals, public places and quarantine centres – vital steps to protect communities against the threat of COVID-19.
Influencing for a bigger impact
We responded to changing opportunities brought about by the pandemic, focusing on those most likely to help us achieve our mission, including governments and donors who are most able to make an impact with policies and investments for long-term positive change for the poorest communities.
We influenced 11 national policies, strategies or standards to benefit people without clean water, decent toilets or good hygiene, in addition to delivering services directly, and strengthening other organisations’ capacity.
For example, our influencing led the Ministry of Health of Uganda to reprioritise funding towards sanitation and hygiene. Together with our partners, this is the result of years of advocating for change.
Bigger budgets in Uganda
Tigalana is a nurse at Ndejje Health Centre, Uganda. Our influencing secured funding for water, toilets and hygiene in healthcare across the country.
Strengthening systems, empowering communities
As well as influencing and directly delivering services ourselves, we strengthen the capacity of local institutions to deliver better quality, sustainable services.
By putting our energy into building the capacity of local and national authorities, utilities and, where appropriate, private industry, we can secure people’s sustainable access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene in huge numbers.
But that is only half the story. Helping people understand their rights to these essentials, and the duty on their elected representatives to fulfil these rights, is just as vital.
To strengthen the systems needed, we work alongside national and local authorities and service providers to improve planning and coordination, monitor performance, create financial models and advise on personnel capacity.
Where necessary we challenge weak performance.
This work is not as immediately dramatic or easy to visualise as drilling a borehole or installing a toilet. But step by step, it builds and builds until the drilling and the installation starts, for many more people than we could reach directly ourselves.
We report on people reached indirectly with improved services from 14 of the countries we work in:
- 519,593 people in or near their homes
- 23,687 children and staff in schools
- 401,949 people in health facilities
- 11,100 people in public facilities
- 130,927 people in or near their homes
- 38,693 children and staff in schools
- 48,259 people in health facilities
- 14,381 people in public facilities
- 32,691 children and staff in schools
- 847,060 people in health facilities
- 71,945 people in public facilities
- 394,243 people in or near their homes
- 34,359 people in health facilities
Our direct reach
While the pandemic briefly paused much of our existing delivery activity, we quickly adapted to new ways of working that allowed us to honour our commitments. In communities, healthcare centres and schools around the world, we continued designing and installing water and sanitation projects directly to fulfil hundreds of thousands of people’s rights to these essentials.
We also used this work to innovate with new approaches and technologies that we assess and promote, for others to use and adapt. In this way we can have an even bigger impact.
Responding to the pandemic enabled us to expand our service provision, especially via handwashing facilities, in public spaces such as markets and bus stations, and to increase their disability-friendly elements.
Improving sustainability in eSwatini
Over 7,000 people across the Hhohho, Lubombo and Manzini regions now have clean water thanks to two solar powered supply systems and 11 inclusive hand pumps we installed in autumn 2020.
(Above) Maxwell, from our partner Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, stands next to water storage tanks for a solar water system in Ka-Ben, Lubombo, eSwatini.
Our fundraising and finances
The continued generosity of our supporters, despite the difficulties faced by everyone during the pandemic, has been deeply inspiring. We are incredibly grateful for their efforts and were glad to make a positive difference to their experiences of the last year.
Fundraising helped WaterAiders push through lockdowns, fending off anxiety through virtual activities. And as the nation considered how to exercise during outdoor restrictions, challenges like distance runs or our new Swim Marathon gave people a great way to stay fit while making a lifechanging difference.
Our total income in the financial year 2020-21 was £89.5 million. A full breakdown can be found in the chart below. Total income fell by just 1.9% compared to the previous year, a remarkable achievement given the pandemic’s impact and the constantly evolving response to it. It was clear at the start of the year that COVID-19 was going to be a major risk to income, and we initially estimated it to cause a shortfall of up to £10 million. However, our staff responded magnificently, rolling up their sleeves and finding creative ways to engage our audiences, so that we avoided this worst-case scenario.
While some income streams, such as events, were decimated, others including individuals, companies and philanthropic organisations supported our work with greater generosity than we planned for. We are immensely proud of and grateful for this, as it had a direct impact on our response to the crisis in some of the most difficult circumstances in the countries where we work.
Our total expenditure in the financial year 2020-21 was £85.4 million. A full breakdown can be found in the chart below. Total expenditure reduced by 10% on the previous year, and we took hard decisions immediately after we estimated the likely scale of the pandemic’s potential financial impact. For example, we cancelled a planned cost of living pay increase for all staff, and prioritised staff retention to help us emerge from the crisis healthy and resilient.
We had planned to take £5 million from our operational reserves for critical programme work during the year, but the virus prevented some of this from going ahead. This difficulty in delivering our planned programme, combined with the excellent income results, led to an unrestricted surplus for the year, increasing our operational reserve above its target. We will draw upon this excess to deliver the delayed work from 2020-21 as soon as we are able, and to invest in implementing our new global strategy, which will start in 2022.
Income and expenditure 2016–2021
So much of our work is only possible because of the passion and commitment of individuals and organisations who share our vision of clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene for everyone, everywhere.