WASH Context

WASH is important in the broader development context as progress in the sector leads to increased resilience to public health crises, responsible use of limited water resources, and population-wide infrastructure benefits. On the individual level, WASH progress and programs support human dignity, improved hygiene, increased safety and security, especially for women and girls in the context of SRHR, and improved economic development.

How is ODA to WASH evolving?

In 2021, funding to WASH stood at US$10 billion, including funding reported by DAC donors, non- DAC donors, MDBs, private donors, and other multilateral funding flows reported to the OECD. Traditional ODA from DAC donors consisted of US$4.3 billion of this total and represented 3% of total ODA.

Between 2017 and 2021, DAC ODA to WASH has decreased steadily. This change has been driven by trade-offs between WASH topics and needs in other contexts, including in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic or the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. In addition, political support for WASH is waning globally, and the sector suffers from a lack of quality data and evidence, especially concerning outcomes.

How is WASH funding allocated?

Mutlilateral Funding: 49%, or US$4.9 billion of funding for WASH flowed from multilaterals in 2021. Top multilateral donors to this sector include the IBRD, International Development Association, and the ADB. The top five multilateral donors to WASH represent 57% of total multilateral funding to the sector.

Bilateral funding: 43%, or US$4.3 billion of funding flowed bilaterally in 2021. This included funding channeled as earmarked contributions through multilaterals. The top five donors to WASH represent 71% of total bilateral funding to the sector.

Top Donors: Germany (US$861 million), Japan (US$720 million), France (US$653 million), EUI (US$537 million), and the US (US$ 361 million) were the largest sovereign donors to WASH in 2021.

Sector planning: WASH sector planning is not sufficiently supported, as water sector policy and administrative management has fallen 55% between 2018 and 2021.

Sanitation Context

Within WASH, sanitation is especially relevant in the context of public health and public safety. As a relatively neglected issue, the importance of funding sanitation cannot be understated.

ODA is an important source of international funding for this issue because it is ideally used to supplement national government budgets to support sanitation projects in addition to other programmatic work. Estimates from UNICEF suggest that 70% of funding for sanitation comes from national governments and 30% is supplemented by external funding. At a country level, the most important funding flows to this issue a domestic government funding and household funding.

Between 2017 and 2021, ODA funding to WASH has decreased steadily, resulting in similarly decreased funding to sanitation. Decreased WASH funding has been driven by trade-offs between WASH topics and needs in other contexts, including in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic or the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. WASH sector funding is used for a wide variety of topics, including water management, drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene. There are competing priorities within WASH, with increased focus on water-related issues compared to sanitation. Water issues have become exacerbated by the impacts of climate change and this is communicated in larger advocacy spaces and media.

How is sanitation funding allocated?

Sanitation financing from bilateral donors traditionally supports large systems sanitation.

The sanitation sector suffers from a lack of historical proof of concept with existing methods and programs: the sector struggles to prove impact to both donors and users. The sanitation sector also suffers from a collective action problem that other sectors in development do not face to the same extent. For sanitation to “work,” all must use it. Regulation is needed to ensure sanitation programs are successful, so government and public buy-in is needed to elicit results.

Who are the top donors to sanitation?

Germany (US$227 million), the EUI (US$202 million), France (US$191 million), Japan (US$179 million), and the US (US$167 million) were the top five donors to sanitation in 2021. The top five DAC donors represent 70% of total DAC funding to sanitation.

The Donor Tracker team, along with many DAC donor countries, no longer uses the term "foreign aid". In the modern world, "foreign aid" is monodirectional and insufficient to describe the complex nature of global development work, which, when done right, involves the establishment of profound economic and cultural ties between partners.

We strongly prefer the term Official Development Assistance (ODA) and utilize specific terms such as grant funding, loans, private sector investment, etc., which provide a clearer picture of what is concretely occurring. “Foreign aid” will be referenced for accuracy when referring to specific policies that use the term. Read more in this Donor Tracker Insight.

Country Specific Deep Dives

Learn more about ODA to WASH & Sanitation from...

Our WASH & Sanitation Experts

Yara Matar

Yara Matar

Project Manager

Maura Kitchens West

Maura Kitchens West