Need for urgent action as new report shows funding for water, sanitation and hygiene falling at alarming rate

24 May 2023
Delowar Hossain (44), a self-employed septic tank cleaner is working at a local community toilet. He is cleaning the septic tank manually without any safety gear. During Covid-19, he did not receive any support from any Government or non-governmental  ...
Image: WaterAid/ DRIK/ Habibul Haque

Download photos  Figures analysed by international charity WaterAid have shown the extent to which donor funding has declined globally for critical projects safeguarding water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). This means the world’s poorest are being impacted most by the shortfall.   

WASH funding has decreased by a third since 2015 – the year in which the Sustainable Development Goals were agreed.  In fact, in the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, aid targeted specifically at improving water supply and sanitation globally fell more sharply than almost all other sectors, despite its importance in controlling infection. This puts the world at greater risk of the spread of Antimicrobial Resistance or ‘superbugs’, or even another pandemic.  

Just 0.6% of aid for health had a strong WASH component between 2015 and 2021. This is potentially devastating. WASH-focused programmes, when successfully implemented, make real inroads into achieving each of the 17 SDGs by 2030, and so the decline in funding directly impacts these targets, as well as communities’ abilities to withstand the worst impacts of climate change.  

This shows that investing in WASH is a quick win for the most vulnerable communities, profoundly impacting both climate and health-related challenges. This cannot continue to be overlooked or ignored by the world’s donors, says WaterAid. 

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid UK, said: 

“A number of multilateral meetings are taking place this month. This includes the World Health Assembly in Geneva and the G7 leaders meeting in Japan.  It is commendable that the G7 leaders mentioned the importance of WASH in their communique at the weekend but the impacts of the decline in WASH funding should be further highlighted and discussed. WaterAid is calling for these cuts to be reversed and increased to better protect the world’s most vulnerable communities.” 

Read the full report here


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For more information, please contact: 

Nick Ericsson 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.