Keeping Promises Report: Key Findings

Are countries delivering on their water and sanitation commitments? This is the question WASHwatch helps monitor and it is the subject of the recent WaterAid report entitled Keeping Promises: Why African Leaders Need Now To Deliver On Their Past Water And Sanitation Commitments.

Keeping Promises takes an in depth look at where five Sub- Saharan African  countries (Ghana, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda) stand in terms of delivering on the water and sanitation commitments that they have made, highlighting success and shining light on areas where more still needs to be done.

While substantial progress has been made towards achieving targets for access to water, all five countries are off-track in terms of access to sanitation. In fact, with the exception of Rwanda, the countries are substantially off track, with a gap of more than 20% between 2010 coverage and the 2010 sanitation target.


One answer is the low priority given to sanitation financing. All five countries have made commitments to spend 0.5% of GDP on sanitation, and to be more transparent about sanitation financing by creating a separate budget line. Nevertheless, transparency remains limited and available evidence indicates that this spending target is not being reached. For example, the Government of Sierra Leone estimates that 2012 sanitation spending was less than 0.01% of GDP and in Ghana, urban sanitation spending has not exceeded 0.15% of GDP in over 5 years.

More worrying yet is that the 0.5% of GDP is probably a low estimate of the spending necessary to achieve  the MDG target for sanitation. Furthermore, the findings of Keeping Promises are not unique to the countries investigated. A World Bank survey of 18 Sub-Saharan countries determined that in all but five countries investment in sanitation was less than 0.1% of GDP.

The WASHwatch user survey revealed that of all the commitments monitored on WASHwatch, determining whether governments have in fact created a separate budget line for sanitation and whether they are spending 0.5% of GDP on it were the most difficult.

Therefore, over the next 3 weeks, I will be investigating sanitation spending in Uganda, Kenya and Ghana, to see what I can find out about public spending and budget transparency. While the Keeping Promise report provides a strong indication of what I can expect to find in terms of outcomes, I am more interested in chronicling the process.

I want to know more about the following:

  • Where to look?
  • What to look for?
  • What is available publicly?
  • What needs to be available publicly- the crucial information gaps?



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