Funding for water growing but slim

More organizations throughout the world are getting grants from more foundation for water-related projects, yet foundation funding for those projects still represents only a tiny share of all international grantmaking, a new research brief says.

The number of foundations awarding grants for water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, projects grew to 78 in 2010 from 24 in 2003, while the number of organizations receiving those grants grew to 127 from 26, says Foundation Funding for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, a research brief from the Foundation Center.

Funding for those projects, which totaled $5 million in 2003, peaked at $122 million in 2007, thanks mainly to a four-year, $27 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to International Development Enterprises.

Still, water-related grants as a share of international grantmaking overall grew to only 1.7 percent in 2010 from 0.2 percent in 2003.

Africa received 30 percent of all water-related grant dollars in 2009 and 2010, the biggest share of any region, compared to 18 percent that went to Asia and 9 percent that went to Central America and South America.

Twenty percent of water-related grant dollars from foundations, the biggest share, supported water-sector policy and administration, compared to 17 percent for basic drinking-water supply and 14 percent for each research and for basic sanitation.

“Worldwide, 780 million people do not have reliable access to clean water, and a staggering 2.5 billion, including nearly 1 billion children, do not have adequate sanitation,” the brief says. “The repercussions are severe and far-reaching.”

Diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war, the brief says.

In several sub-Saharan African countries, it says, over 25 percent of the population must travel more than 30 minutes to the nearest water source.

And lost productivity and increased health care costs “take a heavy economic toll,” it says, with Africa alone experiencing economic losses of $28 billion a year, or about 5 percent of gross domestic product, as a result of a lack of safe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene.

“Changing this reality will require the collective efforts of governments, corporations, nonprofits, and organization philanthropy,” the brief says.

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