“We shall not defeat any of the infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation, and basic health care.”

–Kofi Annan

Worldwide, 3.5 million people die each year from water-related illnesses. Today 2.5 billion people — including almost one billion children — live without even basic sanitation.

How are we addressing this global challenge?


Sanitation Methods, Water Quality, Hygiene

$1,000,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Oxfam America, 2009
To provide emergency assistance in response to cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe.
$121,000 from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to SurfAid International USA, 2009
For Community Led Water Security and Total Sanitation Program in Nias, Sumatra, Indonesia.
$10,000 from the Seattle Foundation to Water First International, 2009
For construction of water and sanitation system in Chimsal, Honduras.


$250,000 from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste, 2008
For litigation against ill-advised coastal development projects and to provide legal support and training to environmental organizations and communities in Northwest Mexico.
$75,000 from the Ford Foundation to Oxfam International, 2009
To train Honduras community leaders involved in forest and water management in communications, facilitation and advocacy skills. Focus of grant is on indigenous women.

Public Education

$3,000,000 from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 2008
For participation in West Africa Water Initiative, providing clean water and sanitation in Ghana, Mali and Niger.
$3,000,000 from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to Wateraid America, 2008
To augment WaterAid's current efforts to promote sanitation and hygiene as part of West Africa Water Initiative.
$50,000 from the Ford Foundation to the PEACE Institute Charitable Trust, 2008
To collaborate with state agencies and NGOs in developing plan for revival and for outreach to help Delhi's people understand relationship between their health and the health of the surrounding river.

Freshwater Resources/Sanitation

$200,000 from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, to Friends of the Earth Brazil, 2009
To work for improvement in public review and project finance requirements for Amazon Megaprojects, as well as requiring more robust environmental and social impact assessment.
$50,000 from the McKnight Foundation to the Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network, 2008
To build rainwater harvesting jars for safe household water supply, and teach construction and maintenance to women's groups in central Uganda.

School-Based Activities

$400,000 from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to the Global Water Challenge, 2008
For Clean Start Fund for water, sanitation and hygiene education for schools in Mexico.
$15,000 from the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities, Inc., to the Holy Union Sisters, 2007
Toward construction of a water supply pipeline (design, labor, materials) to provide a dependable source of clean drinking water for Saint Mary's Catholic Comprehensive High School in Ndop, Cameroon.


$35,000 from Citi Foundation to United Way International, 2008
For The Dariu Foundation, Vietnam: Microcredit for Water and Sanitation Improvement Project.

Global Climate Change

$525,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation to Mercy Corps, 2009
Toward assessing two cities in Indonesia that are potential participants in the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, piloting initial resilience activities and mapping key climate change policies and organizations in Indonesia.

Public Campaigns in U.S.

$1,000,000 from the Starbucks Foundation to CARE, 2008
For grant made through Ethos Water Fund to introduce transformative sanitation and hygiene practices in Rwanda's Musanze district.
$1,000,000 from the Starbucks Foundation to Project Concern International, 2008
For grant made through Ethos Water Fund to implement participatory methods and low-cost, easy-to-maintain technologies in Tanzania's Babati district.
$68,000 from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to the International Community Foundation, 2008
For Web-based, interactive mapping tool of coastal areas of Northwest Mexico.

Ideas Banking on Nature's Assets: How Multilateral Development Banks Can Strengthen Development by Using Ecosystem Services
World Resources Institute
Ranganathan, Janet; Frances Irwin; Cecilia Procope Repinski
November 2009

Shaping Climate-Resilient Development: A Framework for Decision-Making
Economics of Climate Adaptation Working Group
September 2009

Mapping a Healthier Future: How Spatial Analysis Can Guide Pro-Poor Water and Sanitation Planning in Uganda
World Resources Institute; Uganda Ministry of Health; Uganda Ministry of Water and Environment
October 2009

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Mapping a Better Future: How Spatial Analysis Can Benefit Wetlands and Reduce Poverty in Uganda
World Resources Institute; Uganda Ministry of Water and Environment
May 2009

Assessing Microfinance for Water and Sanitation: Exploring Opportunities for Sustainable Scaling Up
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Mehta, Meera
March 2009

Emerging Markets, Emerging Models: Market-Based Solutions to the Challenges of Global Poverty
Monitor Group
Kubzansky, Michael; Paul Frandano; Ashish Karamchandani
March 2009

Rice and Water: The Final Frontier
Rockefeller Foundation
O'Toole, John
September 2004

Sustainable Solutions: Building Assets for Empowerment and Sustainable Development
Ford Foundation

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Go to PubHub for more ideas»


UN-Water is an inter-agency mechanism fostering greater cooperation and information-sharing among United Nations agencies and outside partners on freshwater and sanitation issues.

The UN-Water Task Force on Sanitation aims to increase the effectiveness of global efforts to reach the sanitation targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The 2030 Water Resources Group's 2009 report Charting Our Water Future: Economic Frameworks to Inform Decision-Making explores measures of efficiency and water productivity to support a cost-effective approach to meeting competing demands for water. The group was formed in 2008 to contribute new insights into the issue of water resource scarcity by McKinsey & Company, the World Bank Group, and a consortium of business partners.

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In its 2000 Millennium Declaration, the United Nations set eight goals for development, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals set an ambitious agenda for improving the human condition by 2015.

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation is the official United Nations mechanism tasked with monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG). Its 2010 report titled Progress on Sanitation and Drinking- Water: 2010 Update Report presents the current status and trends in 209 countries or territories towards reaching the drinking-water and sanitation MDG target, along with an assessment as to what these trends reveal.

The United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Report 2006: Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis details the underlying causes and consequences of the lack of access to water and sanitation, including the social and economic factors driving water shortages; the scope of international cooperation to resolve cross-border water management conflicts; and the need for national strategies and a global plan of action.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a lead UN agency for water sciences and education with several programs.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has taken a lead position over the last 30 years in assessing and monitoring the state of global water resources and their use and management. In collaboration with partners and collaborating centers, it collates and analyzes water resource data on a global scale.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has worked in more than 90 countries around the world improving access to safe water and sanitation and promoting hygiene awareness.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is in the forefront to enhance global agricultural performance while promoting the sustainability of water use for food production.

The World Bank's water strategy seeks to provide effective, tailored assistance to client countries to improve water resources management and enhance water services, in order to enhance growth and reduce poverty.

The International Institute for Environment and Development launched the Global Water Initiative to address the declining state of the world's fresh water supply and the lack of access to clean water services.

The Blue Planet Run Foundation funds water projects entirely through its innovative Peer Water Exchange (PWX), an online community and application allowing the collaboration of donors, implementers and observers.

The Global Development Partners works hand in hand with the people of East Africa to build sustainable solutions to end poverty.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty.

The Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) is a cooperating group of U.S. humanitarian and faith-based NGOs working to assist poor communities in the developing world gain access to safe water and sanitation.

Water Advocates is the first U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing American support for worldwide access to safe, affordable, and sustainable supplies of drinking water and adequate sanitation. It maintains an extensive list of resources on water issues, with links to organizations, partnerships, advocacy guides, fact sheets, events, and more.

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