The Year in Review USAID Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene Highlights from 2020

2020: At a Glance

During a tumultuous 2020 that witnessed the emergence of the most deadly pandemic to sweep the globe in more than 100 years, USAID and partners have proven flexible and resilient in delivering safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to the world's most underserved and at-risk populations. Recognizing the importance of good handwashing hygiene and uninterrupted water service in containing the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopening economies, the Agency went above and beyond throughout the year to ensure that communities across the globe had the necessary information, strategic guidance, and WASH services they needed to protect themselves.

But the story of USAID’s WASH programming achievements cannot be viewed solely through the lens of COVID-19. This past year, the Agency expanded its evidence base to inform and strengthen current and future WASH programming. We released an expansive Water and Development Technical Brief Series and completed the research on a series of Ex-Post Evaluations that turned a critical eye toward long-closed WASH activities and examined the reasons why some interventions proved sustainable—and why some did not.

As we continue to learn, we also reflect on what has proven so impactful to date: USAID support since FY 2008 helped more than 53 million people gain access to sustainable water services, and 38 million people gain access to sustainable sanitation services. But our work is far from done. Between FY 2018 and 2019 alone, the Agency provided $835 million to support WASH activities in more than 50 countries. This year, USAID continued to make progress toward achieving its key development objectives under the U.S Government Global Water StrategyTo accelerate our progress, we launched a private sector partnership with the global sanitation company LIXIL to help scale-up and speed access to affordable, sustainable WASH solutions around the world.

Don't just take our word for it—let us show you the many ways USAID is helping transform lives. Scroll down to see how the Agency and its many partners have been busy harnessing the incredible power of WASH to enhance quality of life, build more resilient and self-reliant communities, and create a healthier, more livable world for all, while protecting the environment.

Elevating WASH to Curb the Spread of COVID-19

Elevating WASH to Curb the Spread of COVID-19

Throughout 2020, USAID WASH programming evolved and adjusted to keep pace with the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world. With more than 73 million confirmed cases to date spread across 200-plus countries and locations, the virus has left no region untouched. To meet the challenge of containing COVID-19, the Agency and its Missions have coordinated closely with partners to raise the profile and extend the reach of WASH activities; educate the public about the importance of regular handwashing with soap; ensure water utilities have the financial stability to provide customers with uninterrupted access to a safe water supply, among other measures. In mid-October, we also celebrated Global Handwashing Day to build further awareness about why a behavior as simple as handwashing remains one of the most potent tools we have to protect the health of our families and neighbors during the pandemic.

Click below to learn more about how USAID has been elevating WASH to curb the spread of COVID-19:

Building the Evidence Base

Building the Evidence Base to Strengthen WASH Programming

In 2020, USAID looked both to the past and to the future as it expanded the evidence base to inform Agency-supported WASH activities, with an eye on enhancing their effectiveness and sustainability. Looking to the past, USAID completed a collection of six Ex-Post Evaluations that highlighted lessons learned from long-closed WASH programs. The evaluations explored the various factors influencing why some interventions proved more durable than others. The outcomes of these investigations were later shared widely in October via a webinar providing a synthesis of key findings. Meanwhile, turning an eye to the future, USAID also launched its Water and Development Technical Brief Series (seven currently available), which provide evidence-based guidance for designing, implementing, and monitoring water and sanitation projects. The Agency concluded the year with the publication of its first-ever Water for the World Implementation Research Agenda, which identifies 27 broad research questions to fill existing evidence gaps by coordinating, integrating, and advancing WASH sector research and learning.

Click below to learn more about how USAID has been building the evidence base to strengthen WASH programming:

Strengthening Private Sector Partnerships

Strengthening Private Sector Partnerships to Improve WASH Access

In 2020, USAID continued to make headway on its journey toward reaching its WASH programming objectives as outlined in the Agency’s Water and Development Plan under the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy. To more effectively drive progress toward these goals, the Agency strategically enlisted the help of the private sector to develop and deploy sustainable WASH solutions at scale. For instance, USAID and partners have been busy supporting market-based sanitation approaches that engage small and medium enterprises in the provision of affordable and aspirational products and services (such as latrines, septic tank emptying, and handwashing stations) that encourages entrepreneurship, fuels local job creation, and improves public health. The Agency teamed up with the global sanitation company LIXIL, for example, to expand access to their innovative SaTo product line in priority countries.

Putting the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy into Action

Putting the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy into Action

Since its release in 2017, the first-ever U.S. Government Global Water Strategy has guided the programming efforts of more than 16 agencies spread across the federal government as we collectively work to enhance water security, improve water resources management, and strengthen public health around the world. Over the past year, this work has included innovative efforts to strengthen resilience to droughts and floods, with USAID helping countries implement early warning systems that encourage proactive management of scarce water resources. The Agency and its partners have also harnessed the power of science and cutting-edge technology to develop water-conserving irrigation schemes; promote treated wastewater as means to enhance agricultural water security; and identify promising aquifer water storage sites using remote sensing, geospatial analysis, and surface water modeling.

As USAID works to reach 15 million people with sustainable access to safe drinking water services and 8 million people with sustainable access to sanitation services by 2022, we have documented our recent progress with the release of the Agency’s latest Global Water and Development Report. And just last month, we reaffirmed our commitment to deepening engagement with 18 countries through the release of our Water for the World High-Priority Country Plans. These plans detail how USAID will collaborate with development partners, government entities, and the private sector to sustainably improve safe access WASH in the years ahead.

Click below to learn more about how USAID is putting the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy into action:


Be sure to follow updates from the USAID Center for Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene during what promises to be a busy 2021. Find out how we are building bridges to a more water-secure and healthier future for communities around the world on Globalwaters.org, Global Waters Stories, and @USAIDWater.

By Russell Sticklor, USAID Water Communications and Knowledge Management Project

Created By
Water CKM Project