"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



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Together, the clean water and hygiene will help me fulfil my dreams of completing school.
Tsehaynesh, 15, pictured above is one of 17,000 people who now have access to clean water thanks to the new reservoir tank, pipes and water points we installed in partnership with the utility and district of Jara Town, Ethiopia.

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.

Januka Bhandari, one of the liquid soap making training participants, holding the liquid soap she has produced, Bhumlutaar health post, Bhumlutaar, Kavre, Nepal, Sep 2020.
Januka Bhandari shows us the liquid soap she made as part of our soap-making programmes in Bhumlutaar health post, Bhumlutaar, Kavre, Nepal, Sep 2020.
Image: WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

We implemented projects in direct response to the pandemic, and installed over new handwashing stations – of which more than 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 million people with mass media messages. These included training more than people in hygiene behaviour change promotion, and distributing over hygiene products.

I am planning to produce liquid soap to sell in the market. I thought it would be complicated but I found the procedure simple.
Januka, left, who took part in our liquid soap making training programme.
Image: WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

We also reached more than people by installing contactless handwashing facilities in healthcare facilities in the districts of Bardiya, Dolakha, Kathmandu, Kavre, Lalitpur and Siraha. Every day, a further people used handwashing facilities that we installed in 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 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.

Image: WaterAid/James Kiyimba

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:

  • people in or near their homes
  •  children and staff in schools
  • people in health facilities
  •  people in public facilities
  •  people in or near their homes
  • children and staff in schools
  •  people in health facilities
  •  people in public facilities
  •  children and staff in schools  
  • people in health facilities
  •  people in public facilities
  • people in or near their homes
  • people in health facilities
We have a new sanitation block, tap water and handwashing facilities, and new bathrooms. Hygiene has greatly improved.
Tigalana, pictured above, a nurse at Ndejje Health Centre, Uganda.


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.

Image: WaterAid/ Basile Ouedraogo

We supported 8,713 communities to reach the following numbers of people in or near their homes:


  • 227,754 with clean water – by installing 641 water points, rehabilitating 462 water points, and supporting 92 piped systems
  • 516,947 with decent toilets
  • 1,009,715 with good hygiene through better facilities, and 2,206,137 through behaviour change activities.
Image: WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

We supported 1,273 schools to reach the following numbers of children and staff:


  • 120,225 with clean water
  • 113,187 with decent toilets
  • 110,959 with good hygiene through better facilities, and 320,717 through behaviour change activities.
Image: WaterAid/ James Kiyimba

We supported 1,152 healthcare facilities to reach the following numbers of patient visits and staff:


  • 785,064 with clean water
  • 840,583 with decent toilets
  • 9,010,826 with good hygiene through better facilities, and 916,459 through behaviour change activities.
Juliet is a mother of four children and owns a store in Obinofia Ndiuno, Enugu State, Nigeria.

“You cannot fetch water from Iyi-itu spring twice in a day, no matter how strong you are.

"After going for one trip, you can barely stand because your legs will be shaking. I could see the pain on my children’s faces every time they returned from climbing the hill to fetch water. Now, we do not have to go through all of that stress to get clean water. Our lives have changed forever.” 

Juliet is a mother of four children from Enugu State, Nigeria.

We reached 10,000 people like Juliet after a 19-month project together with our partner The Coca-Cola Foundation.

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.

Image: Maxwell, from our partner Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, stands next to water storage tanks for a solar water system in Ka-Ben, Lubombo, eSwatini. Photo: WaterAid/Nyani Quarmyne/Panos

(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.

Pie chart showing Individual supporters £50.3m  Corporate and trust supporters £12.0m  Other WaterAid member countries £8.9m  Governments and other institutions £17.8m  Other income £0.5m


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.

Pie chart showing expenditure: Fundraising 25.2%  Supporting partners to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene 33.4%  Sector strengthening and capacity building 23.9%  Influencing policy in water, sanitation and hygiene 12.6%  Supporting WaterAid globally 4.9%

Income and expenditure 2016–2021

Chart comparing income and expenditure 2016 - 2021
Illustration of a drop showing In every £1 we spent, 74p went on delivering services and making change happen and 26p went on fundraising and governance.

Thank you

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.

Image: WaterAid/ Kwizera Emmanuel