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Gates Foundation backs €9.86 million reality check for water and sanitation costs by IRC and partners

Published on: 15/02/2008

What does it cost to extend and sustain safe water and hygienic sanitation to poor communities in developing countries?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting the IRC’s project, WASHCost: Quantifying the cost of delivering safe water, sanitation and hygiene services , with a US$14.48 million (Euro 9.86 million) grant over five years to answer this question and to transform information, learning and performance in the sector.

water meters

Collecting data

IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and partners in four countries – including Burkina Faso and Ghana – will work to identify the real, disaggregated costs of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in rural and peri-urban areas, and the range of physical, social, economic and political factors that influence those costs. The project will increase the relevance and impact of unit cost data through embedding responsibility for developing and using it at local and national levels.

Partners include national and local governments, community-based organisations, the local private sector, non-governmental organisations and international agencies. Data developed by the WASHCost project will help these partners and others in the sector to predict what WASH services should cost in different contexts, thereby supporting better governance and technology choices and more efficient use of funds in a sector that is all too often constrained by inadequate and confused information.

By the end of five years, national and international decision makers will be able to access and use good quality data and benchmark information from the four countries, representing a range of contexts, to support their planning and budgeting of WASH services.

About the project

Ben Lamoree, Director of IRC, said: “I am delighted that the Gates Foundation has backed this work to improve efficiency and transparency in WASH services. This is not only about better data but also about people improving their lives and livelihoods.”

Catarina Fonseca, WASHCost project director at IRC and a global expert on the economics of WASH services, said: “This work will provide benchmarks for the real life-cycle costs of services. IRC and country partners will be pioneers in embedding cost-effective pro-poor decision making in WASH organisations.”

Louis Boorstin, senior programme officer, at the Gates Foundation commented: “Accurate cost information is essential for governments, NGOs and private companies that are working to provide the poor with access to safe, affordable water and sanitation. IRC will work with a range of partners both to develop this data and to use it to make better choices to serve the poor.”

The grant is being made by the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that works with partners to create opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.