At WaterAid, our mission is to transform the lives of the people who have been left furthest behind by improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

With our partners and supporters, we have made a huge difference over the last 40 years. But despite collective achievements, overall global progress has been shamefully slow. To fulfil the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals, progress needs to increase four-fold.

The scale of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) challenge calls for a monumental shift in ambition and approach. We must work with greater urgency, and act as a catalyst for change. That is why this new strategy is bolder and more ambitious than our last.

Instead of measuring our success by the millions of people reached with our service delivery work, we will measure our collective success by the hundreds of millions of people we reach through systemic change.

And therefore, by 2032, we hope to see:

  • 400 million more people with sustainable and safe WASH
  • $15 billion more a year for WASH in low-and middle-income countries
Global Strategy aims and approaches infographic

Our aims

Over the coming decade, with communities, civil society, governments, the private sector and financial institutions, we will focus our efforts in four key areas where we will have the biggest impact.

Achieve universal, sustainable and safe access in focused geographic areas to influence wider change

Muluken Wondirad, manager of Debre Tabor Water Utility assesses the water pipe network map, Debre Tabor, Amhara, Ethiopia.
Muluken Wondirad, manager of Debre Tabor Water Utility assesses the water pipe network map, Debre Tabor, Amhara, Ethiopia.
WaterAid/Behailu Shiferaw

Many countries face significant barriers to delivering universal, sustainable and safe WASH. The enormity of this problem underlines the need for intensive and targeted work to strengthen the whole WASH system and deliver change at a significant scale. We will target specific sub-national areas and work with local, national and global actors to deliver a locally led, joined-up effort to achieve universal, sustainable and safe WASH. Evidence and learning from this work will help tackle wider systemic barriers that hinder progress by influencing and catalysing similar locally led changes at even greater scale. 

We will:

  • Partner with public, private and non-governmental organisations to demonstrate successful models of sustainable water and sanitation services and behaviour change programmes.
  • Work with governments and WASH providers to strengthen the institutions that keep water and sanitation services functioning and reinforce good hygiene habits.
  • Enhance the voices and representation of WASH users, with a focus on women and girls and their involvement in decision making and leadership.

Prioritise WASH across the health sector to improve public health

Sokha, 32, washes her hands in front of the Thlork Vien health centre in Chhouk Village, Samaki Meanchey District, Kampong Chhnang province, Cambodia.
Sokha, 32, washes her hands in front of the Thlork Vien health centre in Chhouk Village, Samaki Meanchey District, Kampong Chhnang province, Cambodia.
WaterAid/Remissa Mak

Universal, sustainable and safe WASH services are essential to prevent and control diseases, infections and pandemics, and enhance the quality, dignity and safety of healthcare. We will strengthen health systems by integrating WASH and hygiene behaviour change, and prioritise the needs of women and girls, who make up the majority of health workers and patients.

We will:

  • Promote health sector ownership of WASH and work with health decision makers to embed WASH in health systems.
  • Work with governments to integrate hygiene behaviour change into core public health programmes and policies, and support locally owned hygiene behaviour change campaigns.
  • Improve the quality of care in healthcare facilities with inclusive and sustainable WASH.

Strengthen the resilience of WASH to climate change

Tahmina Begum, 38, president of women’s cooperative Surovi Mohila Samity, supplies water from the reverse osmosis plant.
Tahmina Begum, 38, president of women’s cooperative Surovi Mohila Samity, supplies water from the reverse osmosis plant.
WaterAid/HSBC/Habibul Haque

Universal, sustainable and safe WASH will only be achieved if it can manage existing and future climate threats. We will strengthen the resilience of WASH services so that communities can always access clean water and sanitation services and practice good hygiene – even after shock events.

We will:

Increase the quantity and quality of financing

Tiru Getahun, water pump manager, in Derekwa, Ethiopia.
Tiru Getahun, water pump manager, in Derekwa, Ethiopia.
WaterAid/Joey Lawrence

Many countries struggle to meet the cost of running existing water and sanitation systems, let alone fund new infrastructure. A substantial increase in the quantity and quality of financing is essential to ensure universal, sustainable and safe services.

We will:

  • Advocate for increased, and more transparent financing by focusing on organisations with the biggest potential impact.
  • Work with expert agencies and civil society groups to track budgets, collect, analyse and publish data, and hold governments to account.
  • Use our own funds as a catalyst, bring in others who can help unlock financing, and support a well-regulated sector that is attractive to donors and private investors.

Our approach

To achieve these ambitious goals, our approach has four key aspects that detail the ways we will drive change and bring our strategy to life.

Services, capacity and influencing

Ram Narayan Chaudhary, 53, employee of the Nepal Water Supply Corporation, Lehan, Nepal.
Ram Narayan Chaudhary, 53, employee of the Nepal Water Supply Corporation, Lehan, Nepal.
WaterAid/Mani Karmacharya

Ultimately, we want to see local people and institutions lead and drive the changes needed for sustainable WASH in every community. In this strategy, we will support service providers, and local and national authorities to strengthen their human and organisational capacity so that they can expand sustainable and inclusive WASH services and behaviour change models. We will also increase our influencing efforts, using policy research, lobbying and advocacy and working with others within and outside of the WASH sector to accelerate progress and make a global case for investment in WASH. To be most effective, we will consistently align our influencing work, our work to strengthen national and local systems, as well as our direct contributions to improved and new WASH services.

Partnerships and alliances

Working with partners and allies has always been at the heart of our work and achieving the global goal on water, sanitation and hygiene will only be possible through collective action. In this strategy, we will build on those relationships and be more ambitious in our long-standing engagement with communities, civil society, governments, the private sector, international financial institutions, women’s rights organisations and academia.

Gender equality

Husne Ara Begum participates in a group counselling session to raise awareness of various aspects of personal hygiene, Sunamganj Tahirpur, Bangladesh.
Husne Ara Begum participates in a group counselling session to raise awareness of various aspects of personal hygiene, Sunamganj Tahirpur, Bangladesh.
WaterAid/Tapas Paul

Unequal gender power relations and the unfair distribution of resources create barriers that mean women and girls are affected disproportionately by poor WASH. Across all our work, we will advance gender equality in WASH for the long term, taking a do no harm approach. We will learn from and build on our existing work to shift power imbalances. We will promote and amplify the voices of women and girls in leadership and decision making, and work with women’s rights organisations to create gender-responsive WASH solutions that build on positive social norms.

Evidence, learning and innovation

Facts and evidence-based solutions are an effective way to galvanise change, foster innovation, and improve our work. We will learn from the failings and successes of our own programmes and generate evidence to shape inclusive and affordable solutions for marginalised groups, particularly women and girls. With our partners, we will innovate new and adapted service models and technical solutions, and amplify our work with communities to share and replicate locally led learning and knowledge.