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Catholic Relief Services has announced three grants totaling more than $10 million from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust in support of efforts to improve sanitation and access to clean water and health care in two West African nations.

One of the grants will support efforts in Ghana to build a hundred and twenty low-cost child-friendly latrines with hand-washing facilities at schools in remote and rural areas, as well as initiatives to promote hygienic practices and improved nutrition. CRS also will use its savings-based microfinance methodology to help parents with their children's school fees. "Many Ghana lack safe water and sanitary latrines for the students," said Lisa Washington-Sow, CRS's country representative in Ghana. "Those unhealthy conditions and the lack of privacy often result in illness and poor student attendance, especially for adolescent girls. The support of the Helmsley Trust will enable CRS to improve the well-being of more than a hundred thousand children and their families and help students stay in school."

A second grant will be used by CSR to teach community members and children at more than a hundred primary schools in Burkina Faso key hygiene practices such as hand washing, using a latrine, and safely handling drinking water. "Nearly half of the population in Burkina Faso doesn't have access to safe drinking water, and access to sanitation in rural areas is at less than 10 percent, placing the country in the bottom ten globally for sanitation coverage," said Bangre Moussa Dominique, CRS's country representative in Burkina Faso. "Schools become incredibly important in influencing young children to change their behaviors."

The third grant will enable CRS to expand its work to improve access to and the quality of health services in rural areas in northern Ghana by providing fifty motor-tricycles equipped to serve as rural ambulances and helping communities develop ambulance-management plans. With a focus on women and children, the project also will ensure that rural health clinics have essential medical supplies, promote behavior changes in seeking health care at clinics, and use traditional birth attendants as well as clinic staff to deliver quality health care.

"In Ghana, limited access to formal health care facilities remains a key challenge in the healthcare delivery system," said Washington-Sow. "The Helmsley grant enables us to help approximately eight hundred and fifty thousand vulnerable people, mainly women and children, to access quality health care when they need it."

"Catholic Relief Services Receives Grants to Improve the Health of Thousands of Children and Their Families in West Africa" Catholic Relief Services Press Release 02/11/2014.

H&M Conscious Foundation Awards $27.9 Million to UNICEF, WaterAid, and CARE

The H&M Conscious Foundation, the Stockholm-based philanthropic arm of clothing retailer H&M, has announced grants totaling SEK 180 million (approximately $27.9 million) to three international relief organizations in support of early education initiatives, efforts to improve access to clean water, and initiatives to strengthen women's rights around the world.

The grants include $9.3 million to WaterAid and its local partners in support of efforts to deliver safe water, functioning sanitation, and hygiene education programs to schools in the developing world. In addition to providing immediate and long-term improvements to health and education, the initiative is expected to influence national and international policies related to individuals’ rights to safe water and sanitation.

"WaterAid is honored to team up with the H&M Conscious Foundation to support real, life-long impact for people living in extreme poverty," said WaterAid America CEO David Winder. "When it comes to ensuring that both girls and boys have an equal chance to grow up healthy and reach their greatest potential, safe water, toilets and hygiene education at school can make all the difference in the world. The generous support of the H&M Conscious Foundation will go a long way in helping WaterAid achieve the goal of making safe water and sanitation available to everyone, everywhere by the year 2030."

The foundation also awarded $9.3 million to UNICEF in support of the humanitarian organization's effort to place early childhood development on the global agenda and enable more children to achieve their developmental potential; and $9.3 million to CARE in support of its work to empower women economically and within various relationships that shape their lives. Among other things, CARE will use the funds to organize five regional campaigns to raise awareness about the structural hurdles and myths that prevent women from reaching their potential and provide a hundred thousand women in developing countries with access to tools, knowledge, and financial resources.

"I congratulate the H&M Conscious Foundation for choosing to support programs in three areas that are critical to sustainable development," said Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special advisor to the UN secretary-general on the Millennium Development Goals. "The donation can contribute to big breakthroughs in each area."

"H&M Conscious Foundation Supports UNICEF, WaterAid and CARE With SEK 180 Million." H&M Conscious Foundation Press Release 02/11/2014.

"WaterAid and H&M Conscious Foundation Join Forces to Bring Safe Water, Toilets, and Hygiene to Schools." WaterAid Press Release 02/11/2014.

"CARE, H&M Conscious Foundation Announce Global Partnership to Empower Women." CARE Press Release 02/11/2014.

WASH Advocates Releases Guide for Corporate Grantmakers

Editor’s Note: In the upcoming months, the WASHfunders blog will feature the work of corporate foundations active in the WASH sector. The series coincides with the release of WASH Advocates’ Navigating the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Sector: A Guide for Corporate Grantmakers. If you are affiliated with a corporate foundation and are interested in submitting a blog post for the series, please contact us at

With several recent high-profile grants in support of WASH from Ikea Foundation and the Caterpillar Foundation, among others, corporations are an increasingly visible source of funding for the WASH sector. In recognition of the important and unique role corporations can play in supporting WASH efforts, a new guide from WASH Advocates provides a landscape of corporate involvement in the sector and serves as a useful resource for both new and established corporate funders.

The guide documents critical needs and issues in the WASH sector and identifies opportunities for corporate involvement -- from ensuring that employees have access to safe water and hygiene in the workplace to investing in WASH projects through a grantmaking portfolio.

With a list of nearly 30 different corporate funders active in the space, the guide highlights various WASH initiatives supported by corporations, including:

As the host of the WASH Grantmakers Network, an affinity group for philanthropic organizations focused on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), WASH Advocates offers pro bono guidance and advice to corporate grantmakers and other private donors interested in helping to address the global water and sanitation crisis. The Grantmakers Network works closely with to provide resources for new and established funders, including a jointly developed Funder Toolkit. For more information about the Network, contact Ben Mann at or 571-225-5823.

Boy, 11, uses Tippy Toppy in Indonesia. Credit: Jim Holmes, Oxfam GB

Boy, 11, uses Tippy Toppy in Indonesia. Credit: Jim Holmes, Oxfam GB

The Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), a grantmaking fund designed to support organizations in developing new technologies to make humanitarian aid more effective, has launched a new initiative to encourage innovation in emergency water, sanitation and hygiene.

With support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the HIF’s WASH initiative aims to foster innovation and finance WASH solutions that will help save lives and reduce suffering during disasters and humanitarian crises.

To this end, the HIF has announced its first challenge: for latrine lighting in emergencies. To address safety concerns for those using latrines in refugee or displaced persons camps at night, the HIF is calling on problem solvers to submit a design for an effective lighting system for communal latrines that is both economical and unlikely to be vandalized or stolen. Applicants must submit their written proposals by March 16 and the winning idea will receive $20,000.

To read regular updates on the HIF’s new WASH initiative and stay informed about upcoming challenges, visit the program’s page on Storify or follow @The_HIF on Twitter.

The HIF is the product of a partnership between Enhancing Learning & Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) and ALNAP, with support from DFID, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the Canadian International Development Agency. has announced a $6.3 million (€ 4.7 million) grant from the IKEA Foundation in support of its efforts to provide access to safe water and sanitation for a hundred and eighty thousand people in Bangladesh.

The grant will help fund two programs — WaterCredit, a microfinance program that provides families with small loans to meet their water and sanitation needs, and the New Ventures Fund, which was launched in 2011 and supports the development of solutions to the global water and sanitation crisis. To date, the organization has invested $8 million in philanthropic capital in the WaterCredit program — investments that, according to, reach five to ten times as many people as a traditional grant over a ten-year period. Those funds, in turn, have leveraged $40 million in commercial capital, helping more than one million people in five countries gain access to safe water or sanitation.

IKEA Foundation Awards 6.3 Million to Water.Org

The water and sanitation crisis in Bangladesh affects both rural and urban areas and stems from both water scarcity and water quality. While the country has made progress in supplying safe water to its residents, severe disparities on a community-by-community basis remain, while diarrheal diseases kill more than a hundred thousand children a year.

"The IKEA Foundation's support represents the first time a corporate foundation has funded both our proven WaterCredit model as well as the design of new, innovative models through our New Ventures Fund," said co-founder and CEO Gary White. "By supporting the development of game-changing approaches, the IKEA Foundation is setting the bar for how companies can drive the critical innovation needed to end the water and sanitation crisis."

"IKEA Foundation Awards € 4.7 Million ($6.3 Million) to" Press Release 01/21/2014.

The UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment for Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS), led by the World Health Organization, collects a wealth of data on national sanitation and drinking-water–related policies, financing, and human resources. GLAAS publishes the results in a biennial report, the last of which was released in 2012 (PDF).

In an effort to make those data more accessible to policymakers and decision-makers, and others working in the WASH sector, initiated a pilot effort to visualize key variables related to the policy and regulatory context of national governments. For each country participating in the GLAAS survey, a “heat map” provides an at-a-glance summary of 11 GLAAS survey questions, including:

  • Have there been any political or financial commitments on WASH made at the minister’s level in the last five years?
  • Is the right to sanitation and drinking water explicitly recognized in policy and law?
  • Are financial flows sufficient to meet MDG targets?
Looking for GLAAS data? Now on!

To view a country profile, simply go to the Funding Map, click on the country of interest, and select the GLAAS tab.

As the GLAAS team completes its next round of data collection and releases new data for 2014, the WASHfunders team will continue its collaboration with GLAAS researchers to develop data visualizations for the sector.

Let us know what you think. Is the heat map useful in your work? Did we choose the right indicators? What other indicators would you like for us to integrate in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or by email at

David Auerbach, co-founder of Sanergy

Editor’s Note: We pose five questions to foundation, NGO, and thought leaders in the WASH sector as part of our “5 Questions for…” series. In this post, David Auerbach, co-founder of Sanergy, shares his thoughts on the sanitation value chain, community ownership, and exciting innovations in sanitation in response to our questions.

1. What is the number one most critical issue facing the WASH sector today?

The most critical issue that the WASH sector faces is the lack of systems-based thinking. We need to go beyond simply providing a toilet. Although 2.5 billion people lack access to a clean toilet, 4.1 billion are at risk because sewage is not treated.  At Sanergy, we take a systems-based approach that addresses the entire sanitation value chain. We provide clean toilets through a franchise network of local micro-entrepreneurs, collect the waste professionally, and treat it properly by converting it into useful byproducts, such as organic fertilizer. Failure to address the whole chain ultimately pushes the challenge further downstream.

2. Tell us about one collaboration or partnership your organization undertook and the lessons learned from that experience.

Sanergy sells Fresh Life Toilets to local micro-entrepreneurs. The franchise package includes installation, marketing, training and business support, and a daily waste collection service, and costs about $600 for the first year. In our work with the residents of Nairobi’s slums, we came across micro-entrepreneurs who were excited to launch Fresh Life businesses -- especially women and youth -- but who did not have immediate access to finance to start up their businesses. Kiva, an online micro-lending platform, partnered with us to provide 0% interest loans to future Fresh Life Operators. The partnership has led to 73 loans being issued and the construction of over 120 Fresh Life Toilets. Those operators serve 5,000 residents with hygienic sanitation daily.  At the same time, Kiva gives us an incredible platform to share the resilient, compelling stories of our micro-entrepreneurs with the world.

By partnering with Kiva, we are overcoming an important hurdle -- access to finance -- and are creating a grassroots, sustainable solution to provide critical sanitation services.

3. How do you work with local communities to promote project ownership and sustainability?

All 161 of our Fresh Life Operators -- each of whom has invested their own savings in Fresh Life -- are from the Mukuru community. They are critical to the sustenance of our business and are key players in effectively tackling the sanitation crisis.  One such operator is Agnes Kwamboka who has a remarkable story of the transformation that she was able to make as a partner with Fresh Life. Tired of having to bribe policemen so that she could run her unregulated brew business, she closed it down and had two Fresh Life Toilets installed. Now, she earns a good income, which enables her to sustain her family and no longer worry about the police. She has also reinvested the profits by purchasing additional Fresh Life Toilets and in literacy classes for herself. Testimonies like these show that we are positively changing the community and changing people’s mindsets about their role in society.

The other significant way in which we gain community buy-in is by hiring from the community. Sixty percent of our 135-person team is from the local community and over 60% of our staff is between 18 – 25 years old -- the age bracket with the highest unemployment in Kenya.  The residents know how the lack of adequate sanitation can have disastrous effects on their lives and this makes them extra-determined to change their communities for the better.

Fresh life toilets become part of the landscape in the informal settlements in which Sanergy works. Credit: Sanergy

Fresh life toilets become part of the landscape in the informal settlements in which Sanergy works. Credit: Sanergy

4. Tell us about an emerging technology or solution that excites you and that you think will make a big impact in the WASH sector over the next 5-10 years.

One great initiative to emerge is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Re-invent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC). Institutions and researchers have received generous grants to come up with innovative approaches for the hygienic provision, collection and treatment of waste.  The initiative has really catalyzed the entire sector and, moreover, broken down taboos to bring the sanitation challenge to the center of any development conversation. Through the RTTC, Sanergy has benefited significantly. We have partnered with The Climate Foundation to develop biochar -- an organic soil conditioner. We have worked closely with Agriprotein in South Africa to develop a protein-rich animal feed made from maggots that consume only human waste. These technologies have the potential to be massively important for the agricultural input industries. In creating value from waste, we give incentive for everyone to participate in the sanitation value chain.

5. There are lots of great WASH resources, ranging from striking data visualizations to good, old-fashioned reports. What’s caught your eye lately besides WASH funders, of course?

Lately, we have read a couple of compelling papers from the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program about what a toilet’s worth, from ID Insight about IDE-Cambodia’s work with microfinance, and Dean Spears’ research on the effect a lack of hygienic sanitation has on children’s height.

Top Five Blog Posts of 2013

We strive to make the WASHfunders blog a forum for thoughtful reflection and conversation on the challenges, successes, and innovations taking place in the WASH sector. Indeed, this year our blog featured a range of topics, including market-based solutions to the world’s water crisis, lessons learned from monitoring and evaluation of projects, and considerations for long term sustainability in the sector. Here’s a look back at the top five most popular blog posts from 2013.

5. Spotlight On…The World Toilet Organization

2013 marked the first official World Toilet Day formally recognized by the UN, though the World Toilet Organization (WTO) has celebrated the occasion since its founding in 2001. In this post, Anirudh Rajashekar, business development manager at the WTO, describes the organization’s market-based approach to sanitation and points to the creation of SaniShop, a program that trains local masons in Cambodia and India to build and market toilets in their communities, as an example.

4. Country-led Monitoring of Rural Water Supplies – Is It Just a Dream?

Dr. Kerstin Danert at the Skat Foundation reflects on the Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery Symposium she attended in April and observes that, while country-led monitoring is paramount to the sustainability of WASH projects, developing country governments and ministries are infrequently involved in this process. In her post, Kerstin compellingly argues that this fragmentation in ownership and monitoring of WASH projects undermines accountability and democracy and highlights possible solutions.

3. Leveraging Partnerships to Increase Impact

How have partnerships been successfully leveraged in the WASH sector? In her blog post from March, Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Network, provides one such example in describing her organization’s H20+ program. The initiative -- which employs a multi-sector approach by incorporating interventions in WASH, health, and education -- brings together stakeholders from local NGOs, the private sector, and local government. Lisa describes some of the coordination challenges that arise when working with a large group of partners and provides some lessons based on the experience.

2. What is Good Enough? Defining a “Basic Service Level” for WASH in Schools

In July, Catarina Fonseca, Senior Programme Officer at the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, wrote about adapting IRC’s life-cycle cost methodology to assess the true cost of projects focused on WASH in schools. In her piece, Catarina provides interesting insights into the numerous considerations involved with assessing cost, such as establishing standards and indicators to determine what constitutes an acceptable level of service.

1. Putting the Entrepreneur into WASH

The most trafficked blog post on WASHfunders in 2013 came from Jim Chu, CEO of dloHaiti. In his post, Jim calls for more private sector and business involvement in the provision of WASH services to ensure long term financial sustainability and reduce the incidence of WASH technologies that, once installed, break down and remained unfixed. He highlights the role that the philanthropic sector can play in supporting market-based innovations that can be adopted and scaled up by the private sector.

Leave a comment to let us know what WASH topics you would like to see covered in 2014. Interested in contributing a piece yourself? Contact us at Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Brian Arbogast, director of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the piece, Brian challenges the notion that high-tech solutions for WASH are inherently more impactful than simple innovations and offers  examples of low-cost approaches in sanitation that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports. The post originally appeared on the Foundation’s blog, Impatient Optimists.

A “Fresh Life” toilet built by Sanergy, which has developed a novel business model based on building and servicing public toilets in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.

A “Fresh Life” toilet built by Sanergy, which has developed a novel business model based on building and servicing public toilets in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.

For many, the name Bill Gates is synonymous with high-tech. They figure if Bill Gates is involved in a project, it must involve complex advanced technology, in which case it’s probably expensive.

But the fact is that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation doesn’t look for the flashiest solutions, it looks for the ones likely to make the biggest impact on the most people possible.

Those of us focused on Water, Sanitation & Hygiene know that we’ve got our work cut out for us. With 2.5 billion people lacking access to adequate toilets and another 2.1 billion of the urban poor using sanitation services in which waste is disposed of poorly and ends up contaminating their communities, the need for solutions is huge.

So when someone says they can build a plastic toilet pan for just $1.50 to keep latrines more hygienic, we listen. And when someone else comes up with a way to charge cell phones with urine, we listen to that too.

American Standard’s SaTo toilet pan is a simple plastic device that fits into latrines. When water is poured in, a trapdoor at the bottom shuts before all the water flows through, sealing the edges. This contraption not only keeps out flying insects that spread diseases like cholera, it also makes the latrine smell better for users. In fact, Popular Science just picked the SaTo as one of the “Best of What’s New” products of 2013.

A very different innovation is being driven by a group of British scientists who've found a way to produce enough electricity to charge a cell phone by using a microbial fuel cell that runs on urine. While this might seem a bit absurd, the reality is that many people in developing countries have limited access to electricity and struggle to charge phones that have become important in their lives. Therefore, a solution that addresses both human waste management and the need for electricity is worth looking at.

When it comes to sanitation solutions, the question shouldn’t be whether to go high-tech or low-tech. The question should be what is going to do the most for people in need.

A few weeks ago, the first winner was announced for the Sarphati Sanitation Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to global sanitation and public health through entrepreneurship. It went to Sanergy, which has developed a novel business model based on building and servicing clean, modular toilets in the slums of Nairobi.

Sanergy franchises its facilities to local entrepreneurs who earn money through fees or membership plans. Every day, Sanergy collects the waste, takes it to a processing plant, and converts it into organic fertilizer and other products. It’s a model that creates much-needed jobs and profits, while also reducing the incidence of deadly diarrhea and disease.

Another finalist for the Sarphati prize was iDE Cambodia, which also works to bring safe latrines to more people. By providing one-stop shopping and simplified construction at a better price, they are offering households in rural Cambodia access to “Easy Latrines,” which provide a healthier environment and a greatly improved quality of life.

Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes, particularly in the area of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene. Sometimes it’s about designing new products, other times it’s about creating a new business model. The key to achieving impact will be to listen to the needs and desires of consumers, who are ultimately the ones who will embrace, use, and sustain safe sanitation.

To learn more about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation & Hygiene strategy, visit here.

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