Register   |   Login   |   Funders' Forum


Editor's Note: This post is authored by Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization (WTO) and BOP HUB, and a leading global advocate for sanitation. This post first appeared on the Huffington Post as part of its "What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals" series in conjunction with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Toilets need to compete with mobile phones and televisions as desirable lifestyle products in order to achieve sanitation for all.

For one-third of the world's population, a clean, safe toilet -- something many of us take for granted -- remains out of reach. The Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to basic sanitation wasn't even nearly reached. In fact, the target has been missed by almost 700 million people.

The proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) include a standalone goal dedicated to water and sanitation -- Goal #6: "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all," and targets to end open defecation and halve the proportion of untreated wastewater. So how do we ensure the success of this goal?

Usage is key

Firstly, it is crucial that we are clear that for this goal to succeed, we will need to see a clean, safe toilet and sanitation being USED by all by 2030.

As we work to improve access to sanitation across the globe, it is critical that we address sanitation behavior. It will not be enough to simply ensure access to sanitation -- people need to be using toilets in order to realize the health, dignity, economic, and gender benefits of achieving 100 percent sanitation coverage. Installing toilets in India, for instance, without addressing behavioral change, has resulted in thousands of free toilets becoming storage sheds or chicken coops, while the owners continue to defecate outside. A survey by RICE found that in India many still consider open defecation to be preferable and "part of a wholesome, healthy, virtuous life."

Driving behavioral change is key to ending open defecation. Rational messages used by educational campaigns in the past have not gotten through. Toilets need to compete for priority on an emotional level, rather than a rational level. We need to motivate people by appealing to their pride and dignity, and position toilet use as aspirational, associated with improved social status.


79 percent of the population in Mozambique still lacks access to improved sanitation. Photo Credit:

Driving Demand

Generating desire for toilets among BoP ["bottom of pyramid," or world's largest but poorest socio-economic group] populations is crucial. The chief obstacle in promoting sanitation is not the ability of BoP populations to afford it, but that they do not prioritize sanitation over other investments, like cell phones and televisions. While only 40 percent of Indians have an improved sanitation facility, current statistics show that around 77 percent have a mobile-phone subscription.

Toilets need to be able to compete in terms of desirability with lifestyle items like a mobile phone for people to prioritize investing in improved sanitation.

In order to drive demand, the image of a toilet will need to be transitioned from dark, dirty, smelly to bright, clean and happy. And we need the reality to match this image. We need to design the toilet to be a wonderful place to visit, and provide populations with a product that is well-designed, well lit and ventilated, and easy to clean -- a much more comfortable, convenient and enjoyable option than open defecation. And simultaneously, we have to ensure the supply of good quality and affordable toilets.

The product needs to be so desirable that people will want to own and use a toilet. And we can appeal to people's sense of pride, and their competitive nature, encouraging them to decorate their toilets, painting them with bright colors, using stencil designs on the outside walls to show off to their neighbors. Owning and using a toilet needs to become a trend, and eventually the norm.

Tackling the sanitation taboo

As we work to see sanitation prioritized by the end-users, we also need to continue working to ensure that sanitation is a top priority for global leaders. Sanitation and water being included as a standalone goal signals that the issue is starting to become more of a global priority. Sanitation has slowly become more of a priority for world leaders in the 14 years since World Toilet Organization was founded on the 19th November 2001 (now celebrated annually as UN World Toilet Day). However, the current level of prioritization is still far from what is needed, especially given the scale and impact of the sanitation crisis. It's time for toilets to be treated as an urgent global priority.

We need to continue to address the taboo nature of sanitation, by calling a toilet a toilet and not being afraid to talk about shit. As former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan said, "No other issue suffers such disparity between its human importance and its political priority."

I have a vision of a world with clean, beautiful, safe and "happy" toilets being used by all. By addressing behavioral change, driving demand for improved sanitation and continuing to advocate for sanitation to be prioritized at the highest levels, I'm confident we can achieve this vision and reach one-third of the world with improved sanitation, positively impacting the lives of some 2.4 billion people.

To find out what you can do, visit here and here.

Follow Jack Sim on Twitter:

In followup to the University of North Carolina’s Water and Health Conference, which took place October 26-30, we've rounded up a number of tweets from conference presenters and participants. The conference covered a number of issues including drinking water supply, sanitation, hygiene, and water resources with a strong public health emphasis.

Were you at the conference? Share your own highlights in the comments below!


Editor’s Note: This guest blog post was authored by Patrick Moriarty, CEO of IRC. In his piece, Patrick stresses the importance of creating lasting systems to achieving the Global Goals, particularly for providing sanitation and drinking water services. Patrick shares how funders can help grantees transition from service providers to systems builders. A version of this post originally appeared here.

We all know that "he who pays the piper calls the tune" - but what if the tune is the wrong one for the times? Can pipers push for new tunes? IRC's CEO Patrick Moriarty thinks so.

On September 25, 2015, 193 world leaders committed to 17 Global Goals. One of them is to provide every human on the planet with sanitation and drinking water services. To achieve this we not only need to get sanitation services to 2.6 billion people who currently don't have them - but also to make sure that once received the services work forever.

People who work on the frontline know that building new toilets using charitable money isn't the answer. There's not enough charitable or aid money in the world, and outsiders lack the skills and local market knowledge to ever create something sustainable. So the solution lies not in building new toilets as charitable outsiders, but in building the local systems that can provide sanitation services. Systems that are led by national governments while drawing on the skills of national businesses and citizens organizations to actually provide the services.

Put simply, International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) have to stop being service providers and become systems builders. To do that, we need our donors and supporters to make this change with us.


Photo credit: IRC

Slow, messy and transformative vs. quick, measurable and trivial
"We know that what they're paying us to do is wrong, they do too - but it's where they want to put their bloody money anyway:" (nameless INGO colleague)

More and more sanitation (and drinking water) organizations emphasize the need to support system strengthening. They get that if we just keep doing what we're doing, we'll never reach everyone by 2030. And more seriously, even if we do reach billions of people, progress won't be sustainable with only aid funding.

Yet the bulk of aid money continues to flow to projects delivering new taps and toilets.

This is not surprising given that boards of philanthropies and national parliaments want hard numbers of "people we've helped", numbers that aren't easily extracted from messy and notoriously difficult to measure processes of systems strengthening. The challenge then is how to sell this critical work to either the no-nonsense business people who make up the boards of philanthropies, or parliamentarians representing aid-fatigued voters who want to know that their taxes are being well spent.

Honest donors that challenge themselves
For INGOs to move away from building toilets to building systems capable of providing sanitation services, donors too have to change - and there are positive signs of this. Visionary foundations like the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Osprey Foundation are supporting a systems building agenda. The onus is on INGO's to find ways to encourage more donors to follow - in part by findings answers to the entirely legitimate requirement for clear measurement of impact. We need to show it works. We need to show that stronger systems deliver better water and sanitation services. We need to provide answers to questions like: How can we show progress? How can we evidence efficiency and effectiveness over time? This is something that many of us are already engaged in, but it undoubtedly needs further work.

But there's also an onus on donors to be honest with and challenge themselves. To accept that however big they are, their financial contribution is trivial in comparison to the need and ambition set out in the SDGs. They must ask themselves challenging questions about their organizational theories of change, which in non-development jargon means: how can their contributions impact on billions rather than a few thousand? How can they work together with other donors to achieve bigger collective impact and trigger the transformation needed at local and national level to ensure that everyone, everywhere will have access to sanitation service... forever.

How we can make change today
The good news is, we can start to change the way we work by building national systems today. With our partners Aguaconsult, WaterAid and Water for People we've developed a global Agenda for Change with guiding principles. Our ask to both our fellow INGOs and donors (not just our own - but all people who fund work in sanitation and drinking water) is simple but challenging:

1. Join us in the work of system building - district by district, country by country. Share our vision of a world where everyone has access to toilets, a world where aid or charity are not needed to provide sanitation services indefinitely.

2. Accept that the road to change will be long, expensive and messy - and that it will sometimes be difficult to share quick results or explain exactly which share of the change is directly attributable to you. Rather: understand that you are part of an unprecedented movement that changes the world.

3. Hold us - as implementers - to account: demand that we develop the tools and numbers not only to build national systems, but to do so effectively and with evidence. At the same time, provide your boards and ministers and parliamentarians with the data that they rightly demand.

We're convinced that it is only by fundamentally changing and strengthening the national systems that deliver water and sanitation services in a country, that the SDG ambition to achieve sanitation (and water) for everyone will be achieved by 2030. It starts with leadership, from donors and INGO's, challenging lazy assumptions that doing what we have always done has any chance of real success. There is another tune for the piper to play and its time to dance to it.

Find out more and join us:

Or get in touch!

#GlobalGoals #Agenda4change

Follow Patrick Moriarty on Twitter:

A Glimmer of Hope in Austin, Texas, has announced a $7 million grant from the IKEA Foundation in support of a five-year anti-poverty initiative in Ethiopia.

The grant will support the organization's efforts to provide clean water, education, health care, and microfinance opportunities in a rural Ethiopian community of seventy thousand people. The initiative is expected to play a significant role, particularly for women and children, in advancing poverty-reduction efforts in the East African country.

"We are very impressed by the integrated community development model that Glimmer has developed over the past fifteen years," said IKEA Foundation CEO Per Heggenes. "Through our partnership, we expect great impact and better opportunities for thousands of children, while helping communities become stronger and better able to overcome the harsh conditions of rural life."

Source: "IKEA Foundation Awards $7 Million to a Glimmer of Hope." A Glimmer of Hope Press Release 10/21/2015.

Editor’s Note: The post below is authored by John Garrett, Senior Policy Analyst at international water and sanitation NGO WaterAid, and Sarah Hénon, Analyst with Development Initiatives, an organization that works to end absolute poverty by making data and information on poverty and resource flows transparent, accessible and usable. This post is based on a recent report, Essential Element: Why international aid for water, sanitation, and hygiene is still a critical source of finance for many countries.

As the world turns its attention to the implementation of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, making good, early progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 6 -- achieving universal access to water and sanitation -- will be essential for all developing countries. This requires ensuring the necessary resources are put in place, and the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda provides an important platform for this, but a recent report released by WaterAid, based on analysis by Development Initiatives, suggests that current financing volumes and trends are not adequate to reach this goal for many countries, and that aid will continue to play a vital role in the implementation of Agenda 2030.  

Recent decline in share of aid to the sector

Aid flows to water and sanitation reached US$6.6 billion in 2013, a 10-year high in 2013, following steady growth from 2007.[1] This aid has played an important role in financing improved access to water and sanitation and allowing the world to meet the MDG water target. But the UN Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) 2014 survey of 94 developing countries found that a majority (80%) of developing countries had insufficient current finance to meet MDG targets for drinking water and sanitation.[1]

WF Chart

Despite the increase in aid in 2013, there are some troubling underlying trends. Between 2011 and 2013 aid to water and sanitation grew by only 2.5%, falling behind the pace of overall aid, which grew by 10.7%. In line with these trends, the share of aid going to water and sanitation decreased between 2012 and 2013. In 2013, the share of aid to the sector dropped to only 3.9% of overall aid, falling below 4% for the first time since 2009. To achieve universal access to water and sanitation, countries that lack financing to meet MDG targets will experience an even greater gap. External financing from aid donors has a vital role to play to support countries' progress to universal access, particularly for countries with low levels of domestic revenue.

Aid to water and sanitation is increasingly delivered as concessional loans

International aid is composed of both grants and loans. During the ten year period between 2003 and 2013, aid loans to water and sanitation increased steadily from US$1.1 billion in 2003 to US$3.3 billion in 2013. This is an increase of 205%, compared with a 123% increase for grants over the same period. Thus, the increasing total volume of aid to water and sanitation is driven by aid loans.

The share of loans in aid to the sector has increased, from less than a third in 2005 to over half of aid since 2011. In 2013, 50.2% of aid to the water and sanitation sector came as loans. Compared with other social sectors, this is a very large share. The health sector receives only 6% of aid as loans, and the education sector receives 14%.

Within the water and sanitation sector, aid loans go mainly to large system projects.[2] Between 2011 and 2013 large systems projects received on average two-thirds (64%) of all aid loans. This increase in aid loans to the sector, although helping to address financing gaps, nevertheless reduces already constrained fiscal space in low-income countries and contributes to risks around debt sustainability.

Most aid in the sector goes to water projects

Since 2010, data on aid flows to the water and sanitation sector can be broken down into aid to water-only projects and sanitation-only projects.[3] For both water and sanitation, aid to basic supply and aid to large systems can be tracked. A total of US$1.9 billion of aid to water and sanitation could be disaggregated between water and sanitation spending in 2013. Of this, aid to water received two thirds (65%). A large share went to large water systems (43%), while basic water received just over a fifth (22%).

Aid to sanitation represented just a third of aid to the sector that can be disaggregated (35%). Basic sanitation received the least at 7%, while aid to large sanitation systems was 28%. Given that the MDG sanitation target was not met, accelerating investments in sanitation are required.

Small but increasing levels of foundation grants

According to data from Foundation Center, foundation funding for water and sanitation has increased in recent years, reaching US$181 million in 2012, delivered through 340 projects. The largest donor was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (US$119 million), followed by the Coca Cola Foundation, the Stone Family Foundation and the PepsiCo Foundation. While the objectives of funds are to be lauded, the volume of their financial contribution matched against the scale of the challenge of achieving universal access suggests the need for careful selectivity, with choices based on maximising impact beyond those immediately reached.  

Key recommendations from WaterAid:

  • A credible Sustainable Development Goal for universal access to water and sanitation will require increased aid to the most vulnerable and under-resourced countries, with a strong focus on equity, sustainability and strengthening systems.
  • Aid to water, sanitation and hygiene should at least double from current levels by 2020, with an emphasis on grant financing, effective targeting and addressing the neglect of sanitation and hygiene. A reassessment of progress and financing gaps should take place in 2020.
  • National governments and donors—including private foundations—should act decisively to improve aid effectiveness and strengthen country systems: through increased transparency, pooling of resources, more technical assistance, and aligning and harmonising all stakeholder inputs behind national processes.

[1] All figures on financial flows are in 2012 prices. Data refers to gross disbursements from all donors. Unlike net ODA, gross ODA disbursements do not take into account ODA loan repayments from recipient countries. Disbursements correspond to the release of funds or the purchase of goods or services for a recipient. All figures based on OECD DAC Creditor Reporting System, data accessed May 2015.

[2]  ‘Large systems’ is a sub-sector of aid the water and sanitation sector. ‘Water supply – large systems’ includes: potable water treatment plants; intake works; storage; water supply pumping stations; and large scale transmission/conveyance and distribution systems. ‘Sanitation – large systems’ includes: large scale sewerage including trunk sewers and sewage pumping stations; domestic and industrial waste water treatment plants. Other sub-sectors are: waste management and disposal; basic drinking and sanitation; systems support. For more information, see

[3] This presents some challenges, in particular that improved donor reporting under these purpose codes may skew trends analysis. The ability of donors to disaggregate reporting using these purpose codes depends on their internal management information and reporting systems.

Following up from World Water Week, we’ve rounded up a number of tweets from the annual global meeting in Stockholm. This year’s theme, “Water for Development”, allowed for the exploration of number of WASH topics -- from financing and the Sustainable Development Goals, to gender issues, climate change, and water management.

The author on the road in Chadiza District. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

The author on the road in Chadiza District. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Sarah Fry, WASHplus activity manager for the USAID-funded project, SPLASH, which works to ensure that proper WASH facilities and hygiene education exist in schools. As the project nears its end, Sarah describes a surprise visit she took to SPLASH sites in Zambia’s Eastern Province and details a number of positive changes she witnessed, particularly in regards to engagement and ownership around WASH -- both within the schools as well as the broader communities. This post originally appeared here on the WASHplus Blog.

That’s literally, not figuratively, building bridges. Two weeks ago I would not have been able to even understand that question, but today I have a story to share with you. First of all, hello from Zambia. As the WASHplus activity manager for the USAID funded activity called SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene), I have been here since early July working with our team to see this activity to its end on September 30th.

SPLASH began in early 2012, and since then has built over 3,000 school toilets, drilled, equipped or rehabilitated over 400 water points for schools, provided permanent handwashing and drinking water stations, and worked with teachers, the national government and local government to ensure that good hygiene practices and stronger systems for operating and maintaining school WASH facilities are put in place, and will stay in place. These activities have taken place in Zambia’s Eastern Province.

Before SPLASH started, Chief of Party Justin Lupele and I went on a “Road Show” out to the districts, where we introduced SPLASH to the government officials and local committees and started to build ownership and participation. The last three years have been a whirlwind of activity -- construction, training, community mobilizing, monitoring, publicizing, documenting. Justin and I thought that as the project nears its end, it would be good to go on another grand tour to get a solid sense of what has happened, what has changed, and maybe, what does it all mean. The only requirement we set was to not alert any schools that we were coming to visit.

Zambia is a vast, not densely populated country. Visiting schools requires spending a lot of time in vehicles riding on rough and dusty country roads. These distances impressed upon me how much staff and building contractor time and effort it took to reach the schools to carry out SPLASH activities. Bumping along, I had a chance to think and look forward to what we would find. I certainly expected to see positive changes and improvements at SPLASH schools. However, nothing prepared me for the sea of change that unfolded before us as we made our way to about 20 schools, mostly rural, but a few urban ones as well.

A school in Chipata. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

A school in Chipata. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

In 2012, we heard many complaints from schools about how communities were misusing their boreholes and denying any responsibility when they broke down. Now, every school has active WASH committee and pupil WASH Club and all are engaged in some form of joint school-community fundraising for maintenance and repair of the borehole. Handwashing after toilet use and before eating was a nearly universal practice by pupils, a habit acquired even if group handwashing hadn’t been inaugurated yet.

A major achievement was the presence of soap at almost all handwashing stations -- stealing soap is a thing of the past, we were told, because pupils want and like to wash their hands. Through the WASH Clubs peer education, they feel that the stations and the soap belong to them. Going beyond peer education, some WASH Clubs are visiting local health centers and performing hygiene skits and poems for women gathered for pre-natal and under-five clinics. In addition, Teachers were delighted with drinking water stations close to the classrooms because time away from lessons was reduced.

Possibly the biggest change was the universal acceptance of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) as a necessary and welcome part of the school program. Zambia, like many African countries, has taboos, myths and restrictions around menstruation, which is almost never discussed openly. Facilities and support for menstruating girls in schools is nearly absent, causing girls to stay home and miss weeks of lessons during the school year. Girls at SPLASH schools were thrilled with their beautiful washrooms -- shower/toilet structures built to accommodate MHM.

However, no one had anticipated the envy of the boys, who are now demanding their own washrooms to clean up after sports. MHM has entered into the vocabulary and into the culture, to the point where one WASH Committee was holding pad making parties for the girls, but then headed out into the community to distribute them to women in need. The taboos around menstruation seem to have melted away.

While the news from schools is very good -- and we will soon be able to quantify what kind of effect SPLASH had on the schools -- we encountered even more good news during this visit, outcomes that I can only call “unexpected consequences” of WASH in schools, and that frankly, I was unprepared for. The big apparent message is that WASH in schools can lift an entire community up and can bring about changes that were previously not possible.

Classroom before SPLASH in Mambwe District. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

Classroom before SPLASH in Mambwe District. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

Launching SPLASH with School Led Total Sanitation “triggering” shifted social norms in surrounding communities around open defecation practices to such a degree that we heard of headmen ordering all households to build latrines or pay a fine! Over a thousand household latrines have been built as a result.

In one school receiving a water point, a new classroom block was built where previously there was only a thatched shelter. Teachers’ houses have gone up, and a new water source at another school enabled a clinic to be built nearby.

Every single school stocked soap and toilet paper -- a miracle right there -- and consequently local shops were seeing a rise in sales of hygiene products. Some schools have a “one child one bottle” policy, leading local businesses to stock up on drinks to satisfy the demand for bottles.

New classroom block built after SPLASH provided access to a new water source. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

New classroom block built after SPLASH provided access to a new water source. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

One of the best “unexpected outcome” is the engagement of artisans in building the latrines and washrooms, and who, in the process, have gained marketable skills.

They have found work on road crews (may the work be speeded up!) and other local construction projects and in one case were solicited by a health center next to a school that has decided to build an exact replica of a SPLASH toilet.

Leading the parade of successful new entrepreneurs is the ex-SPLASH artisan who proved so competent that once the latrine construction was done, he was hired to oversee the building of a new bridge. And that’s what WASH in schools and building bridges have in common!

Attending World Water Week? Submit a Blog Post to WASHfunders!

Are you planning to attend World Water Week later this month in Stockholm? WASHfunders is currently accepting blog submissions and is interested in publishing content related to this year’s conference. Whether you’re organizing a workshop, involved with an exhibition, or are interested in covering a plenary, we’d love to feature your blog post describing highlights from the event.

Even if you won’t be attending the conference, we always welcome blog post contributions around critical issues of water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Posts should be about 800 words, written in an accessible style, and may cover a wide range of subjects related to WASH.

To contribute to the WASHfunders blog – around World Water Week or another topic – contact us at for more information. 

Webinar: Using Data for Learning and Sharing

This August 11th, join WASH Advocates, Global Water Challenge, IRC, and Aquaconsult for the third and final webinar in the 3-part webinar series, What Can Your Data Do For You? Moving Beyond Reporting, which outlines the ways to turn your data into action. 

The webinar, focused on applying data for learning and sharing in the sector, will feature presentations by Brian Banks from Global Water Challenge, Ivan Birungi from the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda, and Nompumelelo Ntshalinthsali from the Department of Water Affairs in Swaziland.

For more information or to register, please click here. To see past webinars in the series, visit the webinar page on  

Pit Emptying and Marketplace Development: A Mucky Business from Water For People on Vimeo.

Market development in sanitation is, both literally and figuratively, a mucky business. A recent video from Water For People thoughtfully illustrates the different approaches and limitations the organization has experienced in its attempts to establish a city-wide market for pit emptying services in Kampala, Uganda.

After identifying transportation costs as a main constraint to the scaling of the city’s pit emptying sector, Water For People helped to establish Sanitation Solutions Group with the aim of growing the market for this service. The Group leases vehicles and equipment to the best performing businesses already existing in the informal sector and supports pit emptiers in becoming franchisees, helping to professionalize an industry to which few aspire.

Watch the video and share your own insights and lessons learned for market-based solutions in the WASH sector in the comments!

Get Updates


Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29