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Published on: 05/08/2013

WASHCost—a US$ 14.5m, five-year project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and implemented by the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC)—has been a bold, global attempt to gain accurate knowledge on disaggregated water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) costs in rural and peri-urban areas.  

The WASH sector has been historically weak in presenting a clear understanding of the costs of achieving goals such as the water and sanitation MDGs.  WASHCost, with generous support from the Gates Foundation, was, in the words of a leading development bank staff member “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to do the fundamental investigation of costs to improve the efficiency of investment decisions and sustainability of services.

In January 2013, the IRC commissioned an independent End-of-Project assessment of the achievements of WASHCost to reflect on the lessons learnt from the project. The assessment, undertaken by a team of international consultants (Piers Cross, José Frade, A.J. James and Sophie Tremolet), included five separate analyses: assessments in each of the four focus countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, India [Andhra Pradesh] and Mozambique) and a global assessment.   

The assessment findings show that whilst not everything was achieved in the original expectation, this highly productive project made excellent progress in a difficult terrain.  It provided a framework for sector costing and it articulates a life-cycle costs and service delivery approach to costing WASH services. WASHCost can count amongst its achievements:

  • helping to shape the post-MDG debate;
  • influencing the approaches of several major donors and some planned investments;
  • making significant contributions to the cost dialogue in the four focus countries, in particular in Ghana;
  • developing a methodology for assessing costs now being applied in at least eight other countries;
  • developing a training facility which has already trained more than 1000 people from 91 countries; establishing a strong WASHCost network; and
  • producing an extraordinary array of 176 quality publications.  

Much needs to done by way of follow-up, especially in generating financing approaches to meet life-cycle costs for different service levels, and embedding an approach to sustainable financing into local government settings. The WASHCost End-of-Project Evaluation looks back at what can be learnt from this significant sector initiative, and forward as to how to translate these lessons into more sustainable services.

Piers Cross
Lead Evaluator

Download the full report below.

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