Raising the high-water mark for WASH aid: assessing official development assistance in accelerating progress toward the global goals for water, sanitation and hygiene

Water storage tower with solar panels to power extraction pump, in Kafin Iya ward, Kirfi local government area, Bauchi state, Nigeria, September 2019.
Image: WaterAid/ Michael Bailey

With less than a decade to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reflecting on recent performance towards them can help identify priority areas for action. In this paper, we analyse trends in international support for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and examine the extent to which the international community is meeting its existing commitments.

The global goal on water, sanitation and hygiene aims to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to these services by 2030. However, at current rates of progress 52 countries will not even eliminate open defecation in that time, and 71 countries will not achieve universal access to basic drinking water services.

The UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) has reported an average gap of 61% between the finance required to meet national WASH targets and the funding available. To fill this gap, urgent action is required to strengthen all sources of WASH finance – taxes, tariffs, and transfers. With official development assistance (ODA) remaining an important source of WASH finance for many low- and lower-middle income countries, it is vital that we reflect on the quality and quantity of WASH ODA delivered in recent years, to understand where improvements can be made.

To make a quantitative assessment of recent trends in WASH ODA, we first examine a range of global WASH commitments made between 2009 and 2019 to identify a set of common principles for WASH ODA. We then assess the performance of development partners against these principles, using data from OECD-DAC’s Creditor Reporting System.