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☑ ☆ ✇ UN-Water Affiliated News

Taking time machine back to 2014: What could have been done differently?

By: Anna Nylander

In 2014, the Human Rights Council appointed Mr. Léo Heller as the second Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. After six years, his second … Read more

The post Taking time machine back to 2014: What could have been done differently? appeared first on UN-Water.

☑ ☆ ✇ UN-Water Affiliated News

Sharing water in Rwanda’s breadbasket

By: Anna Nylander

In Nyagatare district – known as Rwanda’s breadbasket – the farmers rear livestock and cultivate crops such as maize and rice, but they suffer a long dry season stretching from … Read more

The post Sharing water in Rwanda’s breadbasket appeared first on UN-Water.

☑ ☆ ✇ UN-Water Affiliated News

World Toilet Day 2020: Sustainable sanitation and climate change

By: Anna Nylander

World Toilet Day, 19th November, celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. It is about taking action to tackle the … Read more

The post World Toilet Day 2020: Sustainable sanitation and climate change appeared first on UN-Water.

☑ ☆ ✇ UN-Water Affiliated News

Private actors, privatization and the human rights to water and sanitation

By: Anna Nylander

On 16 October, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, is organizing the virtual side-event ‘Private actors, privatization and the human rights to … Read more

The post Private actors, privatization and the human rights to water and sanitation appeared first on UN-Water.

☑ ☆ ✇ UN-Water Affiliated News

Policy brief on hand hygiene at the workplace

By: Anna Nylander

Workplaces, particularly those that employ migrant workers and those in the informal economy, have taken centre stage in the containment of the COVID-19 virus. In their efforts to promote decent … Read more

The post Policy brief on hand hygiene at the workplace appeared first on UN-Water.

☑ ☆ ✇ UN-Water Affiliated News

Global Handwashing Day 2020: Hand Hygiene for All

By: Anna Nylander

Global Handwashing Day is October 15. And as every year, the day serves as a platform to raise global awareness on the importance of hand-washing with soap. The COVID-19 pandemic … Read more

The post Global Handwashing Day 2020: Hand Hygiene for All appeared first on UN-Water.

☑ ☆ ✇ UN-Water Affiliated News

The role of engineers in the effort to achieve SDG 6

By: Anna Nylander

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030 are based on findings from the natural and social sciences and other fields regarding the implementation of necessary changes in order to … Read more

The post The role of engineers in the effort to achieve SDG 6 appeared first on UN-Water.

☑ ☆ ✇ Globalwaters

Dredging Up the Past

By: USAID Water Team

A Clean Riverbed is Changing the Lives of Turkmen Farmers

“When there are floods, we have to build barriers to keep our land safe,” says Ataev Maksat, a 35-year old farmer from Saryyazy, a village in Mary, Turkmenistan. He is a third generation farmer, growing wheat and cotton on his ancestral land. He also raises livestock and tends to his household vegetable garden — all of which relies on the Murghab, a transboundary river that flows from Afghanistan to Turkmenistan.

The Murghab riverbed hasn’t been dredged in a long time. Over the past three decades, the riverbed has risen by nearly three meters. Additionally, the risk of flooding was exacerbated by changes in river flow due to climate change. Consequently, there has been an increase in floods and agricultural losses.

This has changed in 2020. In December 2019, USAID, in partnership with Turkmen counterparts, invested in a dredger, a vessel equipped to remove silt and sediment from the riverbed, through USAID’s Smart Waters program.

Click here to read the full story.

This article appears in Global Waters, Vol. 11, Issue 4; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on Globalwaters.org

Dredging Up the Past was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

☑ ☆ ✇ Globalwaters

Providing Safe Water in the Desert

By: USAID Water Team
USAID provided support to develop a water treatment system at Massara Village in Asuit Governorate. Photo credit: USAID/Egypt

Engineer Atef Abdel Sayed is proud of his work to bring clean water and sanitation services to 25 million people in Egypt. “We have achieved much more than just construction,” says the 2020 USAID Water Warrior award winner.

Access to clean water and sanitation services is an ever-present challenge for Egyptians. While 97 percent of the population has access to potable water, consistent quality is a major concern, particularly in the rural areas that depend on groundwater wells. With just 25 percent of rural residents connected to sewer lines, groundwater contamination from leaky septic tanks is a constant threat.

Since 1978, USAID has invested more than $3.5 billion in water and sanitation services for more than 25 million Egyptians. One of the most recent examples is the Egypt Utilities Management program (EUM). The $440 million EUM program focused on water-related infrastructure projects, including more than 30 water and wastewater facilities. The program worked in two other key areas — sectoral reform at the national level and institutional development of the water and sanitation sector. “Early on, Egypt realized they can’t manage the facilities as a centralized governmental authority,” says Sayed, water, sanitation, and hygiene lead for USAID/Egypt. “Through EUM, USAID and the Egyptian Government started discussing a complete national reform of the water and wastewater sector.”

This national reform led to the decentralization of the water sector and the creation of a new water management platform. The government established a quasi-governmental National Holding Company for Water and Wastewater (HCWW) to improve operations, maintenance, planning, and expansion of water infrastructure. USAID worked with the HCWW to create 25 local, public utilities (companies) — and to transfer utility management from the central HCWW to these autonomous water and sanitation companies. “You must start with a legal and regulatory framework for the service provider to ensure sustainability, first of all for the services to the people and the quality, and then to ensure the sustainability of the taxpayers’ money that will be pumped into the sector,” explains Sayed. “This is not just for water, but every sector.”

A woman in Upper Egypt stands next to her new sink. Photo credit: Claudia Gutierrez/USAID

Establishing a legal framework for decentralization of the new public utility sector and regulating water and wastewater services served as a critical first step on the path to self-reliance and sustainability. Next, USAID helped automate operations and billing systems while providing technical assistance and training for these local companies. As a result, the public utilities are able to forecast and budget for service expansion and can now recover at least 80 percent of their costs with revenues. In fact, many of the utilities have fully recovered their costs.

This will be increasingly important in 2021 when the Egyptian Government ends water subsidies. “These companies have to bring the resources to ensure that they cover their operation and maintenance costs and rehabilitation and replacement,” says Sayed. “If they do this, it will be the end of our program, and this will be a success.”

USAID continues to work with the local water companies through a new EUM–like program, which is scheduled to end in September 2024, to increase access to water and sanitation for nearly half a million people in the underserved communities of rural Upper Egypt, including Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, and Aswan. USAID supports the construction of wastewater facilities to provide basic sanitation services, the installation and improvement of pipelines and household connections as well as to work with utility companies to improve their management.

Sayed stresses that building of both infrastructure and capacity are vital for a program’s success. Local people must understand how to properly manage the infrastructure and the systems that support it, and feel confident to innovate new solutions for their specific challenge. “You can’t just fund the infrastructure,” he says. “That would be a big failure.”

Sustainability of programs is the ultimate goal. For example, Sayed explains that a woman in rural Upper Egypt doesn’t care about the 100 kilometers of pipeline that USAID installed or the training that her water company staff completed. “She only knows one thing: she can open her tap and she can drink the water,” he says. “The service is our focus.”

Delivering Water Where It is Most Needed

The Egyptian government requested USAID assistance to bring water infrastructure to North Sinai, an area with considerable security issues. Photo credit: USAID/Egypt

Accessing a consistent and reliable supply of clean water has historically been a challenge for the Bedouin people of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Thanks to USAID’s $50 million, six-year North Sinai Initiative, 450,000 people on the Sinai Peninsula no longer face this challenge. Six desalination plants, seven deep wells (up to 4,000 feet deep), regular truck deliveries, and three water reservoirs now provide year-round, potable water in this 10,000 square mile isolated region. In addition, USAID supported the procurement of 20 wastewater vacuum trucks for safe removal of wastewater in the Sinai’s urban areas.

The Egyptian government requested assistance to bring water infrastructure to an area with considerable security issues. Once USAID funding for the 16 separate infrastructure projects was in place, the Egyptian government and private companies did the work. In just four years, and under continued serious terrorist attacks in North Sinai and the resulting very tight security measures by the army and security forces, the Sinai Company for Water and Wastewater awarded and completed 35 different contracts. These interventions included four engineering contracts for design and construction management, several delivery contracts to procure trucks and equipment from the United States, and more than 25 construction contracts in all aspects from pipelines, deep well drillers, desalination specialists, water structures, and finally a solar power specialized firm. “They achieved the real goal,” says Sayed. “They did everything for themselves with USAID’s support and funding.”

The Sinai Company’s ability to complete these large scale infrastructure projects in such a short time can be attributed not only to their commitment and perseverance but also to USAID’s Egypt Utilities Management program which helped create the company and provided technical assistance and training to ensure the sustainability of the water sector in Egypt.

By Christine Chumbler

Additional Resources:

This article appears in Global Waters, Vol. 11, Issue 4; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on Globalwaters.org.

Providing Safe Water in the Desert was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

☑ ☆ ✇ Globalwaters

Gaining the Upper Hand Against COVID-19 in Three African Countries

By: USAID Water Team
A women washes her hands with a Generation One handwashing station in Benin. Photo credit: Sanitation Service Delivery (SSD)

Every Oct. 15, Global Handwashing Day is celebrated around the world to increase awareness and understanding of the vital importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent the spread of illness and save lives. Join USAID and its partners in celebrating this year as we highlight the elevated importance of this hygiene behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Handwashing with soap and water is a key prevention strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, even this most critical behavior is out of reach for the nearly 3 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean water and soap in their homes.

Two USAID–funded sanitation programs implemented by PSI are overcoming these challenges by applying a market-based approach to increase the supply of handwashing facilities and products in homes in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ethiopia. In Benin and Côte d’Ivoire, only 11 percent and 19 percent of households, respectively, possess a basic handwashing facility. In Ethiopia, only 8 percent of households have one (JMP 2017).

Leveraging Local Networks, Strengthening Supply Chains

Since 2017, the USAID Transform WASH (T/WASH) activity has worked in Ethiopia to increase access to and sustained use of a wide spectrum of affordable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) products and services, with a focus on sanitation. Its multipronged approach stimulates demand at the community level, strengthens supply chains, and builds an enabling environment for a vibrant private market for WASH products. As a result of USAID support, Ethiopia has networks of distributors, craftsmen, and retailers in place across 41 woredas, or districts, in 10 regions of the country. T/WASH leveraged these existing networks to respond quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, T/WASH identified a need for handwashing products at the household level. It had begun to lay the groundwork to expand the range of products offered to communities just as the pandemic hit.

Throughout Ethiopia, COVID-19 has caused disruptions in the distribution of sanitation and hygiene products, inevitably affecting T/WASH’s operations. Whereas before, T/WASH’s local distributors could travel freely to pick up supplies from warehouses and transport them to their final destination, now, travel restrictions make it difficult to move from region to region. Additionally, the sudden increase in demand for hygiene products to combat the spread of COVID-19 put a strain on the supply chain and, in turn, made them too expensive for many consumers.

More than 11,000 households in 40 woredas across Ethiopia have purchased handwashing stations as a result of T/WASH’s COVID-19 response interventions. Photo credit: Kedir Hassen/T/WASH

T/WASH saw its opportunity. The activity reached out to Excel Plastics, a manufacturer of home handwashing products based in Addis Ababa, and convinced the company’s distributors and retailers to provide a viable channel to reach households and tap into a new market for hygiene products.

T/WASH has also entered partnerships with Splash Social Enterprise, HappyTap, and Lixil to test market new varieties of consumer and institutional handwashing station products in Ethiopia. The partnership includes market assessments, product prototyping, and consultation on establishing manufacturing operations in the country.

“We knew we had something already in the works that would make a lot of sense for prevention of COVID,” says Monte Achenbach, T/WASH project director. “We could work with Excel to accelerate sales through our distributors and get the handwashing stations out as quickly as possible. The whole supply chain was set up already for us to be able to move quickly.”

A T/WASH business partner demonstrates a no-touch handwashing product. These types of stations are especially advantageous during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Kedir Hassen/T/WASH

To help stimulate demand, T/WASH developed a business-focused marketing campaign for the home handwashing products, which complemented the national public health messages being provided by the Government of Ethiopia and various NGOs.

“It’s one thing to raise awareness [for the behavior],” Achenbach says. “It’s another thing to market a product and to make people aware that in their communities there’s a local business who can supply them with what they need. We knew we needed to supplement what was being done on a broad level with specific product marketing with our business partners.”

This marketing includes outreach products retailers can distribute door-to-door throughout their communities, such as stickers, posters, banners, and billboards, as well as more far-reaching methods, like radio ads. The handwashing stations Excel produces vary in size and cost, allowing businesses to order and offer products that suit regional needs. For example, water-stressed areas might need a handwashing station with a larger capacity to reduce the need to refill as often. Prices for products range between $0.85 to $8.92 USD depending on their size. Thus, the marketing materials reflect the diverse range of products and can be customized by businesses to promote their specific product offerings.

T/WASH’s marketing materials, such as the one pictured above, convey the wide array of products Excel Plastics offers. Photo credit: T/WASH

In addition to their supply chain and demand development efforts, T/WASH also launched a design competition for no-touch handwashing products, which are generally too expensive for the average family or household. The ultimate goal of the design competition is to provide locally manufactured products that are affordable enough to be viable in local markets. T/WASH hopes to select a short list of designs to move to a prototyping phase, after which T/WASH would connect entrepreneurs to a manufacturer who could help them with the final design.

As a result of COVID-19 response efforts, more than 11,000 handwashing stations have been purchased by households to date.

Communication is Key in Benin and Côte d’Ivoire

USAID’s Sanitation Service Delivery (SSD) program has worked in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana since 2014 to create a more effective, sustainable, and inclusive sanitation market for the urban poor. Over the program’s life, SSD has engaged private sector service providers, trained artisans, helped business start-ups, designed sales strategies, trained sales agents, organized public awareness events, and conducted community marketing.

With local SSD–trained micro-entrepreneurs already in place to advertise, sell, and install latrines with handwashing devices for households in both countries, SSD was in a position to adapt and rapidly respond to COVID-19. Currently, SSD and its partners are marketing two different generations of handwashing stations.

Generation One stations have been sold alongside toilet products before and during the pandemic. These models consist of a plastic tank with a faucet and a funnel to catch and redirect wastewater. They are simple to install on toilet cabins, walls, and trees, making them a smart choice to add to kitchens and bathrooms. The low cost (around $12) makes them a popular option for consumers in Benin.

Specifically designed in response to the pandemic, Generation Two models consist of a plastic tank, faucet, and basin to catch wastewater affixed to a wooden stool. Some even have foot pedals for hands-free operation. While these models are more expensive (costing around $25) and more complex than the Generation One models, they are also a more durable option.

Generation Two handwashing stations were designed specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: SSD

In addition to increasing production and distribution of handwashing facilities, SSD is working in both countries to raise awareness of the importance of handwashing with soap to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

At the beginning of the pandemic, SSD-Benin teamed up with the Government of Benin’s COVID-19 task force; led handwashing campaigns within municipalities; and facilitated the delivery of handwashing systems, soaps, and hand sanitizer to homes. This structure allows SSD entrepreneurs to work directly with local authorities in their COVID-19 awareness campaigns.

“The framework and approach of SSD in Benin made it easier to intervene and respond to COVID-19,” says Bernard Elegbe, Benin SSD team leader. “The program is run by SSD–identified micro-entrepreneurs who are trained to provide sanitation products and services to households.”

After installing a toilet, an SSD entrepreneur delivers a handwashing station to the new sanitation facility. Photo credit: SSD

Communicating the importance of handwashing is key to SSD-Benin’s COVID-19 response, since handwashing is not a widespread practice for a large part of the population. When SSD sales agents install latrines and handwashing stations, they have always taught the household the importance of handwashing at critical times. After the COVID-19 outbreak, SSD started to include messaging in their sales agents’ toolkits that stresses the importance of handwashing with soap and water as a means to slow the spread of the pandemic. More than 3,600 news updates and interactive radio programs on COVID-19 prevention measures further bolstered handwashing promotion. According to SSD-Benin team leader Bernard Elegbe, frequent handwashing with soap and water has become increasingly commonplace since the COVID-19 outbreak.

SSD-Côte d’Ivoire teamed up with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Sanitation at the beginning of the pandemic on a COVID-19 education campaign, highlighting the importance of handwashing to combat the spread of the disease. This campaign was conducted in markets, hospitals, and public places in 50 localities and reached more than 10,000 people. As in Benin, SSD-Côte d’Ivoire partnered with 15 local radio stations for three months to broadcast more than 14,000 radio ads centered around the importance of basic public health practices.

“Demand for handwashing devices increased significantly in response to COVID-19 information campaigns”

At the community level, SSD-Côte d’Ivoire spearheaded a door-to-door handwashing awareness campaign and introduced a tele-coaching system to continue building the capacity of their entrepreneurs remotely to ensure they wear masks, practice social distancing, and wash their hands as they visit homes to install latrines and handwashing stations. While handwashing has become common practice in urban and peri-urban areas, challenges in rural areas due to water shortages and lack of infrastructure have led to slower uptake. Despite this, SSD already sees the fruits of their communication campaigns.

“Demand for handwashing devices increased significantly in response to COVID-19 information campaigns,” says Marcel Etchian Ayereby, SSD-Côte d’Ivoire team leader.

In the fight against COVID-19, both SSD and T/WASH are leveraging sanitation and hygiene markets in Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Benin, which have been strengthened through both USAID–funded programs. They have identified and responded to both governments and beneficiaries’ emerging needs to quickly pivot their product line and marketing strategy to address the urgent demand for handwashing products. The durability and responsiveness of these sanitation market systems to meet their customers’ needs during a time of pandemic and beyond will help cement their place in their respective communities and hopefully leave a legacy of improved hygiene practices to mitigate further illness and outbreaks.

By Claire Hubert

Additional Resources:

This article appears in Global Waters, Vol. 11, Issue 4; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on Globalwaters.org.

Gaining the Upper Hand Against COVID-19 in Three African Countries was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

How Bangladesh citizens and the media exposed corruption in water management

By: Ivanna

This brief is based on the study “Water Financing for Flood Protection in the Wetland Areas (Haor) in Bangladesh: Determining the Scope for Social Accountability” by Touhidul Hoque Chowdhury in partial fulfillment to the requirements for obtaining the degree of Master of Arts in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague. This thesis was supported by WIN.


Sunamganj is a wetland district in the North-Eastern part of Bangladesh, which is flooded every year due to monsoon rain and flood water from the Brahmaputra river. Flooding is a natural phenomenon in the country’s wetlands (Haor). To protect local crops from the most severe floods, the government implements crop protection embankment projects through the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB).

The study on which this brief is based, revealed that corruption contributed directly to the failure of protecting local crops during a particularly devastating flood in 2017. The research highlighted how integrity deficits within these projects came to light as a result of a grassroots civil mobilisation, which put pressure on authorities to investigate.

Credit: Oxfam


Media and community pressure lead to policy change

In 2017, newly constructed embankments in Sunamganj collapsed, leading to the flooding of 142 Haors. Damages estimated by the government included crop loss on 371,401 hectares with a value of over USD 800 million (rice and fodder)[1], in addition to losses in fishery and livestock.

This led the local NGOs/CSOs and media to report on the damage, linking it to poor maintenance of the flood protection embankments in the wetland areas. Local-level journalists were providing real-time reports through social media and reaching out to the local community as well as the national press. Media reports showed that not only contractors, but also engineers and other officials were involved in corruption in the construction and maintenance of the flood protection structures as well as in other major development projects  (river dredging and irrigation). They brought nationwide attention to the losses.

The wide coverage on the issue in the national media,  prompted the government to review the “Kabita Nitimala 2010”, the policy governing Haor Management, which led to the implementation of the “Kabita Nitimala 2017” policy. In the revised policy, project implementation was shifted away from the BWDB’s responsibilities and delegated to the local administration. The BWDB was made responsible for technical support of the implementation process.

Despite this swift policy change, it was revealed that there were many places where the height of the embankments was increased beyond the established design parameters, which became a barrier to the natural flow of floodwater into the wetlands.

People’s active participation in the local governance system has always been a challenge in the local development context. The geographical characteristics of the wetland areas make it even more difficult to promote people-centered governance. Because the livelihoods of the Haor community are vulnerable to the natural catastrophes (i.e., floods), the government implements water projects to protect the Haor community and its crops.

The “Kabita Nitimala 2017” is one of the policies that created scope for the local people to implement the water projects under the leadership of the local administration. It was brought forth due to the pressure from the media and local organizations on the regulatory bodies, which prompted to launch an investigation into the corruption that occurred in these projects.

The role of the media was acknowledged by government officials and NGO activists who were interviewed for the study.


Credit: Touhidul Hoque Chowdhury


Investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission

In response to the tremendous pressure from the media and civil society, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which is mandated to investigate corruption in any public institution, decided to launch an investigation. During 2017, the ACC found evidence of irregularities in the embankment development and maintenance. . Despite the ACC’s efforts in filing lawsuits against the BWDB duty bearers for negligence and malpractice during the implementation of the water projects, the wetlands communities are sceptical as to whether the responsible authorities and other parties involved will be held accountable. Currently, the cases are moving slowly.


The chronic failure to maintain the crop protection embankments is an integrity issue, affecting the lives and livelihoods of the community members. The policy change altered the local accountability mechanisms, shifting ownership to the local administration and providing more space for local community involvement in a region where geographical characteristics have increased the challenge of promoting people-centered governance. The new mechanisms are promising but still have their obstacles. It was, for example, revealed that since implementation there are many places where the height of the embankments was increased beyond the established design parameters, becoming a barrier to the natural flow of floodwater.

It is important that joint accountability mechanisms are encouraged to ensure that BWDB and the local administration are active participants.

Media and civil society engagement also remain crucial. They played a significant role in building popular mobilisation, informing policymakers of wrongdoing and holding all stakeholders to account, thus directly contributing to safeguarding the rights of the local population.


[1] Haor Advocacy Platform (HAP) Position Report Flash Flood 2017

You can download a lengthier summary of the study here:

The post How Bangladesh citizens and the media exposed corruption in water management appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

☑ ☆ ✇ UN-Water Affiliated News

Humanity at crossroads, according to report by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity

By: Anna Nylander

Healthy ecosystems underpin delivery of water supplies and water quality, and guard against water-related hazards and disasters. The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity may therefore be regarded as foundational … Read more

The post Humanity at crossroads, according to report by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity appeared first on UN-Water.

☑ ☆ ✇ UN-Water Affiliated News

Improving the health of the African Great Lakes

By: Anna Nylander

A new collaboration between the Canada-based International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the African Center for Aquatic Research and Education (ACARE) will tackle some of the most pressing issues … Read more

The post Improving the health of the African Great Lakes appeared first on UN-Water.

☑ ☆ ✇ UN-Water Affiliated News

UN75: the future we want, the UN we need

By: Anna Nylander

In January 2020, the United Nations launched the global consultation to mark its 75th anniversary. Through surveys and dialogues, it asked people about their hopes and fears for the future … Read more

The post UN75: the future we want, the UN we need appeared first on UN-Water.

☑ ☆ ✇ Globalwaters

Strengthening Africa’s WASH Sector Capacity for Data-Driven Decision-Making

By: USAID Water Team

Global Waters In Focus

Data technicians in the Manica Province of Mozambique at a training to learn how to use the new m-SINAS tablets for mobile data collection. Photo credit: IWED Mozambique/ENGIRDO

In Focus, part of the USAID Center for Water’s Global Water Stories, is an occasional series that takes a broader and more technical look at USAID water activities that have been in place for some time to share approaches, results, and lessons learned.


Locations: Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania

Duration: 2016-2020

Partners: Ministry of Water Irrigation and Energy and Oromia Water and Energy Resource Development Bureau (Ethiopia); Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (Ghana); Ministry of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (Madagascar); National Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation (Mozambique); Directorate of Sanitation (Senegal); and Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (Tanzania)


Despite widespread knowledge of the importance of water security and sanitation to health and economic development, access to safe water and improved sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa is still very low.

Fishermen arrange their nets in Lac de Guiers, Senegal. Photo credit: Theophane Boutrolle/WALIS

Data suggest that the lack of adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services is not solely the result of insufficient funding or technology but mostly due to ineffective resource allocation. However, governments must have access to accurate, reliable, and timely data to effectively allocate those resources and inform policy and investment decisions. In many African countries, sound sector data are lacking, which hinders their ability to make data-driven decisions. Without data, policymakers cannot identify needs, develop appropriate policies and/or interventions, allocate resources toward the most urgent priorities, or monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of development interventions.


USAID’s Water for Africa through Leadership and Institutional Support (WALIS) project focuses on building the capacity of sub-Saharan Africa’s national and regional leaders to capture and apply evidence in the development of policies, strategies, programs, and investments to improve the capacity of their water and sanitation sectors.

In 2016, WALIS initiated the Improving WASH Evidence-Based Decision-Making (IWED) program to encourage a shift toward sustainable services delivery, consistent with Sustainable Development Goal 6, through smarter use of data, better monitoring, greater emphasis on analysis, and evidence-building. The program also focuses on strengthening sector policies and strategies and encouraging sharing lessons learned and experience among African governments. As a first step, WALIS issued a call for Expressions of Interest from African countries that USAID designated as high-priority for WASH support. WALIS selected six countries — Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Senegal, and Tanzania — to receive an award of up to $250,000 to support demand-driven activities. Each award enabled government agencies to address key bottlenecks by developing tools and evidence-based decision-making processes to improve the performance of their WASH sectors. To ensure the sustainability of program achievements, IWED focused on collaboration with government structures and institutions. WALIS and the selected local implementing partners worked closely with government staff and supported WASH sector government agencies to execute the awards, while government agency representatives provided oversight in coordination with WALIS.

Because countries self-identified different needs, the IWED program took on different forms in each, as discussed in detail below.

Improved Knowledge Management for Ethiopia’s WASH Sector

It would take several hours for staff at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy (MOWIE) to locate a single document in its disorganized filing room. As a result, the ministry often lost important WASH sector information, resulting in duplicative work and a lack of knowledge sharing within the sector. Ethiopia’s ONE WASH National Program — a sector wide approach to planning, financing, and monitoring the Ethiopian WASH sector — recognizes the importance of knowledge management (KM) to create a coordinated countrywide WASH program. Therefore, one of the program goals is to create a robust KM system, which would strengthen sector capacity for planning, budgeting, and monitoring WASH services.

MOWIE’s library assistant uses the new knowledge management system developed under IWED Ethiopia. Photo credit: IWED Ethiopia/WaterAid Ethiopia

IWED support in Ethiopia focused on improving KM in the WASH sector, with a particular emphasis on MOWIE’s internal KM systems at the national and subnational level, and transferring knowledge to other stakeholders to make information available for management, planning, policy formation, and decision-making. The project team developed protocols, procedures, and workflows to guide the development, use, and sharing of knowledge among national-level ministries. WALIS also provided capacity development for staff to implement these practices at the national and subnational/regional level; the Oromia Water & Energy Resource Development Bureau (OWERDB) served as a regional pilot. Additionally, WALIS set up information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, including a high-end server and firewalls, to support the new KM system — a digitized version of the filing room that now allows users to easily find existing WASH sector resources, such as donor project reports and designs for drinking water systems.

Streamlining Data Collection and Management in Ghana

Ghana’s Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (MSWR) oversees the delivery of WASH services across the country, and coordinates sector activities to ensure efficient and productive use of resources. MSWR developed a Sector Information System (SIS) to provide key sector actors and the public with relevant WASH data for evidence-based decision-making. Poor data collection and management and fragmented data management systems (that did not feed into the SIS) undermined its function and usefulness as a decision-making tool. This made it difficult for MSWR to identify WASH service gaps at the national level and prioritize resources for filling these gaps.

A WALIS–trained enumerator conducts a baseline WASH survey in the Kumasi region of Ghana. Photo credit: IWED Ghana/MAPLE Consult

To address this, WALIS supported MSWR to: (1) develop and implement standard WASH data collection, management, and reporting procedures and protocols from the local to national level; provide capacity building to different actors in the WASH sector to properly implement data collection procedures; (2) collect baseline data in selected regions; and (3) establish an integrated information system for the WASH sector that ensures data collected at the local level flows into the SIS at the national level. This improved system allows for the generation of sector reports and indicators the ministry requires to effectively target regions lacking improved WASH services.

Creating Better Access to “Water for All” in Madagascar

In 2017, Madagascar’s national and local leaders faced a major barrier to improving public health services for the country’s fast-growing population: incomplete or inaccurate data on access to safe water and sanitation sources. To help Madagascar’s Ministry of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene reorganize the WASH sector and strengthen its systems, IWED supported the Budget Program per Regional Objective (BPOR) surveys for five regions in 2017. Before the BPOR process, some remote fokontany (districts) in these regions had never been officially surveyed. As a result, they had often been overlooked during planning and budgeting processes for WASH services and infrastructure.

A survey enumerator in Madagascar uses a smartphone to record data for the Budget Program per Regional Objective survey. Photo credit: IWED Madagascar/WaterAid Madagascar

The BPOR data collection process served as the foundation upon which the Government of Madagascar developed a more realistic sectoral plan that considers village-level WASH needs, based on the surveys of communities across all 22 regions of the country (with additional support from USAID and UNICEF).

A Powerful Data Tool for WASH in Mozambique

In Mozambique, WALIS supported the Water Supply and Sanitation National Directorate (DNAAS) to strengthen its National Water and Sanitation Information System (SINAS). DNAAS officially launched SINAS in 2009 and designed it to cover the entire WASH sector as a single, integrated, sectorwide mechanism. Through the provision of timely, reliable, and publicly available data to plan, track investment programs, and monitor the sustainability of services, DNAAS intended SINAS to bolster sector oversight and accountability. However, SINAS relied upon manual, paper-based collection, and management of data at the local level, resulting in a fragmented, out-of-date system. This led to challenges in data accuracy, consistency, analysis, and sharing, and made it difficult for DNAAS to plan and monitor sector investments effectively.

To strengthen SINAS’s functionality, IWED harmonized the methodologies of collecting, processing, analyzing, and sharing data, and stored it in a consolidated and centralized database so it would be useful for planning purposes. After an initial ICT assessment, the IWED team agreed that it would develop a complementary mobile data collection tool, m-SINAS, alongside the centralized database. Technicians trained under the IWED program used these tools to collect data on water sources, water supply systems, and community sanitation and hygiene, including: location, number of people served, existence of a governance structure for the system, and water quality parameters. The IWED team also consolidated data from several regional-level systems into the central database. With IWED support, DNAAS procured IT hardware and software, completed mobile data collection, furnished a server room, seconded a data technician, and developed both m-SINAS and a WebGIS platform (http://www.sinasmz.com).

Using Technology to Preserve Senegal’s Freshwater Ecosystem

Lac de Guiers is the centerpiece of a complex water ecosystem that supplies 70 percent of the water consumed by 4 million people in Dakar and its suburbs. Recent environmental shifts as well as the lake’s vital importance to the environment, agriculture, and water supply for millions of people, have driven the Government of Senegal to better plan and manage this vital resource through evidence-based decision-making. To support the government’s initiative, the IWED program currently works with the National Directorate of Water Resources Management and Planning to measure the change of Lac de Guiers’ water-related ecosystem over time, including water quality. The IWED team is using state-of-the-art satellite imagery to measure seasonal changes in the aquatic vegetation of Lac de Guiers and adjacent wetland areas to determine the effectiveness of efforts to reduce its spread. The team is also using water quality analysis test kits to monitor ambient water quality in the lake.

The Head of Hydrology at the directorate measures the depth of the water table in a borehole in northeast Senegal during a water sampling campaign. Photo credit: IWED Senegal/Bocar Sall/National Directorate of Water Resources Management and Planning

IWED is also working with the Directorate of Sanitation to develop an asset management inventory monitoring system for public sanitation facilities in schools and health care facilities. The directorate will host the completed inventory on a web-accessible application that is capable of georeferencing all public sanitation facilities to enable their improved management.

Transparency for Tanzania’s Water and Sanitation Data

To improve its WASH data collection, storage, and decision-making processes, Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MOHCDGEC) developed an electronic National Sanitation and Management Information System (NSMIS) in 2012. The ministry intended NSMIS to disseminate information to a broader range of stakeholders and provide reliable and accurate data as an advocacy tool for decision-makers. However, only ministry staff with specific software skills and government log-in credentials could access the WASH data on the platform. This meant that other stakeholders, including regional and district-level officials, could not view or make decisions using WASH data collected across the country, thus undermining NSMIS’s objective to be a transparent tool for advocacy.

Through IWED, WALIS helped MOHCDGEC increase access to quality data via the development of a national WASH web portal. This initiative is in line with the Government of Tanzania’s constitutional commitment to make information easily accessible to all. The web portal now allows other agencies, like Tanzania’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), to easily access WASH data at a regional/district level, filling the gaps from the NBS survey data — which is only conducted once every five years. Furthermore, the regions and districts can now see how they are improving over time compared to the other regions and districts in the country.

As part of the IWED Tanzania program, WALIS printed and distributed 16,000 reporting registers to improve data reporting rates at the village and subvillage level. Photo credit: IWED Tanzania/ABC Bros.


IWED’s work to enhance the ability of each partner country to make data-driven decisions involved improving existing data collection, analysis, storage, and reporting procedures and systems. Where necessary, it also included upgrading ICT infrastructure. Refined and standardized data protocols in the focus countries have made it easier to collect data in a timely fashion and made access to these data easier for the relevant government ministries and other stakeholders who need it in their planning processes.

  • In Ethiopia, IWED digitized 2,469 ministry and OWERDB–generated WASH knowledge products. These knowledge products are now stored on a KM system that the IWED team synchronized with a new, higher-capacity server so that all end-users in both institutions can easily upload, access, and retrieve the data. These improvements increase the ministry’s online capacity to store generated knowledge, and enhance OWERDB’s ability to access information, including through remote access to their intranet. To support the sustainability of the new system and institutionalize a culture of KM within the WASH sector, IWED developed KM guidelines and a flexible training program for existing and new MOWIE and OWERDB staff and trainers.
  • In Ghana, 72 trained enumerators conducted a baseline WASH survey of 5,292 households across six selected regions — Savelugu, Kumbungu, Central Gonja, Juaben, Atwima Mponua, and Kumasi — using newly standardized data collection procedures. Data points for the survey included: the percentage of the population with at least basic access to drinking water, access to at least basic toilet facilities, and access to handwashing facilities; the WASH Economic Equity Index Score; and the WASH Gender Equity Index Score. Data collected from the household surveys and other secondary data were then imported into the central SIS, which the IWED team analyzed to come up with the baseline figures for MSWR indicators. This approach will allow MSWR to have proper tools and systems in place before going to scale at the national level.
  • For Madagascar’s BPOR process, 90 trained enumerators surveyed 20,159 villages in five regions — Diana, Vakianakaratra, Haute Matsiatra, Amoron’I Mania, and Vatovary Fitovinany — at the fokontany and hamlet level via focus groups. Using smartphones, the enumerators collected data electronically and integrated them via the Madagascar Water and Sanitation Monitoring online system. Surveyors found that in districts such as Vatovary Fitovinany, only 3.3 percent of the population had sufficient access to latrines, and less than1 percent of the population had access to the kind of ventilated, improved pit latrines necessary for improving health standards. While these numbers are not unusual for Madagascar, they help the government better identify the needs of communities for a more effective allocation of WASH resources and infrastructure during budgeting processes.

As a result, the BPOR process improved the government’s WASH services’ development and financial planning models. The Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene used the Results from the BPOR process in budget preparation and development of a revamped national WASH sector plan that takes into account the WASH needs of all citizens, and to identify the infrastructure needs and financial cost of achieving universal access to WASH by 2030.

  • In Mozambique, WALIS trained 84 provincial and district technicians on the newly developed data collection and management methodologies for SINAS using the new m-SINAS tool. Using tablets with preloaded questionnaires, the trained technicians surveyed the number of water sources, water systems, and communities across four provinces — Maputo, Sofala, Manica, and Cabo Delgado. The technicians using this mobile technology had far fewer data errors and greater reporting accuracy in their surveys. With the aim of scaling up nationally, WALIS supported the government’s expansion of the use of m-SINAS to six additional provinces on a new Open Data Kit platform that is more compatible, flexible, and financially sustainable than previous SINAS technologies. As of December 2019, technicians had conducted more than 6,500 surveys across all provinces using m-SINAS, and they registered about one-third of the country’s water sources.

As the integration of information from the various regional databases into SINAS continues, the system can more precisely pinpoint WASH infrastructure and services, which provides the districts, provinces, and national government with much-needed information to use in their policymaking, planning, and budgeting. As of project close in December 2019, 13,213 water sources had been added into the system. The success of m-SINAS has since seen the technology and methodology replicated across other government ministries and adopted as the national standard for data collection and management.

  • To support Senegal’s Directorate of Water Resources Management and Planning to measure the change of Lac de Guiers’ water-related ecosystem, the IWED program trained 15 directorate technicians on water quality data collection, analysis, and dissemination methods. Water sampling began in December 2019, and the technicians collected more than 132 samples. The directorate will use the results of the water sampling exercise to formulate a draft policy and strategy to better manage surface water in the areas studied, and to develop a polluters-pay policy and strategy, which will help counteract increasing pollution from anthropogenic sources.
  • In Tanzania, the new WASH web portal is the country’s first open-source repository for WASH data, which the IWED team rolled out in a series of training sessions held in December 2019. More than 130 participants attended the training sessions, including regional and district health officers within MOHCDGEC, research institutions, donor groups, local media, and higher learning institutions — all groups that previously could not access the WASH data housed in the NSMIS. The web portal has quickly become a key resource for research, planning, and informed decision-making for various stakeholders, enhancing the credibility of their work and that of the Government of Tanzania.

Lessons Learned

  • Supporting a demand-driven, government-led activity is the best way to ensure the sustainability of newly introduced systems or protocols. At the same time, collaborating with the relevant government agencies at the initiation of program design ensures that there is no duplication of existing country initiatives.
  • Multistakeholder collaboration requires the continuous engagement of all stakeholders throughout the project’s implementation. Setting up regular in-person meetings and check-in calls help maintain the project’s momentum and ensure project ownership at all levels. Similarly, when working with highly decentralized government structures, forming a national or regional task force that represents the key agencies or institutions allows for effective joint planning, coordination, implementation, and supervision of processes.
  • It is difficult to successfully conduct an exercise at the local or community level without engaging local and/or regional leaders. As community gatekeepers, local leaders are best placed to disseminate information to their communities and to mobilize community members to participate in national initiatives, and should be included in national-level planning processes.
  • A KM system is only as good as its data, so well-trained data collectors and validators are an invaluable part of the entire system. Building human resource capacity through training sessions and on-the-job training is important to reduce human error in data and knowledge processes and to ensure a system’s sustainability.

By Joanne Kihagi, WALIS Communications Specialist, Katie Connolly, WALIS Program Coordinator, and Alayne Potter, WALIS Deputy Chief of Party

To learn more about WALIS, visit:

This Global Waters In Focus case study appears in Global Waters, Vol. 11, Issue 4; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on Globalwaters.org.

Strengthening Africa’s WASH Sector Capacity for Data-Driven Decision-Making was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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WW4D: Government, pay your water bills!

By: Ivanna

Water utilities are crucial for guaranteeing the human right to safe water and sanitation. The session “Government, pay your water bills!” on August 25th at the Week on Water for Development (WW4D) shed light on the issue of governmental non-payment of water and sewage bills. This issue can heavily starve utilities of much-needed resources to operate efficiently and become economically viable. Also it is of great importance as most utility managers, government representatives, and development partners are aware of the matter, but rarely discuss it openly. This session brought together utility managers, development partners and civil society organizations to openly discuss, in four different breakout groups, the topics  of governmental non-payment, its impact, and the strategies to overcome it..

Research presented by Sara Ramos, member of Solutions for Water Integrity and Management (SWIM), demonstrated that 95% of the utilities investigated across 18 countries – mostly from the global south – reported cases of governmental non-payment. The reasons identified were diverse, ranging from political interference to the belief that government entities and public service providers should not have to pay for water and sanitation services.

Civil society campaign in Zambia

In Zambia, for example, services to government institutions comprised 50% of the utility’s anticipated operational revenue in the financial year of 2019/20; however, the bills were not paid. Bubala Muyovwe, from the NGO WASH Forum in Zambia, explained the diverse reasons for these developments, ranging from weakness in cooperate governance to failure to prepare financial statements. Furthermore, Muyovwe highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial stability of water utilities stating that revenues have declined even further while expenses have risen due to, for instance, the purchase of additional chemicals. Although the government has developed strategies to overcome governmental non-payment such as, the installation of prepaid water meters, the problem prevails. Muyovwe stated that the next steps of a civil society campaign in Zambia will be to raise awareness of the issue through the media, collaborate with various utilities, and to exert pressure on the Ministry of Finance.

Getting the government to pay its bills in Romania

In her opening statement, Sara Ramos highlighted that the issue of governmental non-payment is solvable and there are diverse approaches to tackle it in the long run. In his breakout session Teodor Popa from the Romanian Water Company (Brasov), presented a successful example  outlining how Romania was able to solve the problem 10-20 years ago. In Romania, the root of the problem was, among others, the lack of regulations and the problem of legal enforcement of non-payment. Consequently, certain measures were identified and implemented to address non-payment. The most important of these measures discussed were (i) the establishment and legal strengthening of regulators who can enforce the payment of unpaid accounts, (ii) the simplification of the legal process to sue for arrears, and (iii) the establishment of accountability provisions for government institutions in which they need to show that the funds have been used to settle arrears. Furthermore, through structural change, water utilities gained more independence from political interference.

What regulators can do: experiences from Rwanda

In this breakout session, Jacques Nzitonda, Director of Water and Sanitation from Rwanda,highlighted different ways that regulators can provide incentives for government institutions to pay their bills. Advocating for government institutions to allocate annual line budgets, as well as, the inclusion of indicators on government debt in utility reporting, were identified as the most influential measures to transform the issue of non-payment. Additionally, he noted that utilities should be encouraged and authorized to disconnect government institutions in case of non-payment. In the case of Rwanda, it was possible to address the issue through the increase of queries by the auditor general if a government institution has arrears. Overall, the aforementioned methods to address non-payment also played an important role in the utilities ability to take on commercial financing loans.

Supporting civil society space and voice through international advocacy

The role of civil society was comprehensively discussed in this breakout session. Al-Hassan Adam from End Water Poverty explained how a civil society-led campaign can exert pressure on government institutions to pay their water bills. The key aspects of such campaign would be to put local partners upfront and assure its flexibility.. Al-Hassan further emphasized that civil society is not homogeneous and that its diverse organisations operate differently in the light of national politics.

The key insights of this session were that the problem is very real and the question should be how we address it. People are right-holders and governments are duty-bearers; it is, therefore, the government’s responsibility for human rights to water and sanitation, and non-payment undermines it. If the government does not pay, it is the individual who will have to compensate for the costs through higher tariffs or poorer service. However, examples from Romania or Rwanda showed that governmental non-payment is a solvable problem, but only if there is the willingness and the long-term vision to make this behavioral and cultural change.


For more information on the issue of governmental non-payment, we invite you to read our policy brief click here.

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Open online course on transboundary waters

By: Anna Nylander

Transboundary basins account for roughly 60% of freshwater resources, serving around 40% of the world’s population. Managing these shared water resources for the benefit of each country’s population, particularly the … Read more

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Flash floods in Chad kill 10 and leave 120,000 people displaced

By: Anna Nylander

Nearly 120,000 people have been displaced by flash floods caused by heavy rains across Chad in the month just ended. At least 32,000 of the affected persons are in the … Read more

The post Flash floods in Chad kill 10 and leave 120,000 people displaced appeared first on UN-Water.

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Heavy floods devastate displaced and host communities in Sudan

By: Anna Nylander

Heavy seasonal rains have caused flash floods and rivers to burst their banks, including the Nile in the capital Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman, and affected thousands of internally … Read more

The post Heavy floods devastate displaced and host communities in Sudan appeared first on UN-Water.