World Water Week: water, sanitation and hygiene funding drops by a third putting lives at risk, warns WaterAid

21 August 2023
A student washes her hands with soap at a handwashing station, Khulna, Bangladesh, 28 November 2021.

As the doors open again for World Water Week (20-24 August) in Stockholm, leading water, health and sanitation organisation WaterAid are warning that leaders are not on track to meet the SDG on water, and sanitation and hygiene for all as funding falls – and lives are at risk.  

WaterAid points out this World Water Week is roughly the midway point between the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 and their expected completion date in 2030.  

But original analysis conducted by the charity has highlighted that major donor funding to support the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to the poorest and most vulnerable communities has fallen by a third since the SDGs were agreed.   

Sunny Singh, Global Advocacy Adviser for WaterAid, said: “That funding has fallen by a third for water, sanitation and hygiene, a key pillar of SDG6 – when it should have been increasing since the establishment of the 2030 agenda – is a worrying indication of how committed our leaders are in meeting the SDGs. The lack of financing for crucial projects is a death sentence for many in the world’s poorest countries, and is already having far-reaching and devastating consequences.”  

In fact, aid to the water supply and sanitation sector fell more than aid to any other areas of development during the first years of the Covid19 pandemic, despite the importance of handwashing as a preventative measure, according to WaterAid. 

Canada, France, Germany and the UK are amongst the top donors to cut their WASH-specific funding, despite calling it essential to achieving universal health coverage in this year’s G7 Leaders’ Statement. In contrast, WaterAid highlights that if just the first two aims of SDG6 are to be achieved by 2030, this funding actually needs to be increased by a factor of four.  

“The time for accelerated action and funding on WASH is now. The climate crisis is a water crisis, and not only is safe water and sanitation a lifeline to those facing the most vulnerable to the catastrophic impacts of climate change – it will benefit all of us by having a positive impact on, but also on antimicrobial resistance, gender equality and economic resilience.  

“At a time when the global economy is on its knees, investing in WASH makes economic sense. In fact, it would be more costly not to act now. Every $1 spent on hygiene saves $16 on healthcare,” adds Singh.  

WaterAid is calling on donor countries to close the gap between what’s promised and what’s delivered, and to honour the commitments made under international treaties on the SDGs.  

Singh said: “Clean water is hope and the richest in the world have a duty to ensure it is accessed by all. By not acting now, the richest in the world are taking hope away from those most in need of it.”  

WaterAid analysts and representatives will be at World Water Week in Stockholm and are available for comment and analysis.   


For more information, please contact:

Safeeyah Khazi on [email protected]. Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552, or email [email protected].

Notes to Editors:

WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 27 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 28 million people with clean water and 29 million people with decent toilets.

For more information, visit our website, follow us on Twitter @WaterAidUK, @WaterAid or @WaterAidPress, or find us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.

  • 771 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.
  • Almost 1.7 billion people in the world – more than one in five – do not have a decent toilet of their own.
  • Over 300,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's more than 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.
  • Investing in safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene services provides up to 21 times more value than it costs.

[1] WHO/UNICEF (2021) Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2020. Joint Monitoring Programme. Geneva: World Health Organisation.

[2] WHO/UNICEF (2021) Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2020. Joint Monitoring Programme. Geneva: World Health Organisation.

[3] WaterAid calculations based on: Prüss-Ustün A, et al. (2019). Burden of Disease from Inadequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Selected Adverse Health Outcomes: An Updated Analysis with a Focus on Low- and Middle-Income Countries. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. vol 222, no 5, pp 765-777. AND The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2020) Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Seattle, WA: University of Washington.

[4] WaterAid. (2021) Mission-critical: Invest in water, sanitation and hygiene for a healthy and green economic recovery.