Reaching populations in need requires effective WASH monitoring

By Bruce Gordon, Coordinator Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health (WSH), WHO

19 Nov, 2014 in


Health benefits from investing in water and sanitation include saving the lives of millions of children from preventable deaths and illness such as malnutrition and diarrhoeal disease, improving outcomes in maternal and infant care and achieving longer, healthier and more productive lives for adults. Safe water and improved sanitation services have been, and continue to be, a key pillar of primary public health provision. WHO, with its presence and convening power in every country, and UN-Water, a global coordinating entity, will continue to advocate for WASH services, encourage monitoring, and support all stakeholders to fulfill their essential public health protection functions.

As we collectively call for action on sanitation for World Toilet Day, the question remains whether we have the monitoring mechanisms and data in place to target resources to protect the health of the most vulnerable  

This question has been answered by the 94 countries and 23 external support agencies that contributed to the findings of the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) 2014 Report, Investing in Water and Sanitation: Increasing Access and Reducing Inequalities.  Launched today, it is the third biennial report to be published since its founding in 2008. Witnessing the increase in participation in the GLAAS process from 8 countries in the 2008 pilot report to 94 countries in this report has been tremendous. More countries involved means a more accurate picture of the state of the WASH sector around the world. Evidenced-based, high quality data provide concrete findings for which governments can base their planning, monitoring and funding decisions and refocus their commitments to achieve meaningful results.

One highlight of the GLAAS 2014 Report is that most decision-makers are committed to reducing inequalities in access, but are not presented with data that will allow them to reduce country inequalities. Monitoring-related findings of GLAAS include:

    • - Less than half of countries track progress in extending sanitation and drinking-water services to the poor.
    • - Less than one third of countries report having data available which is analyzed and used for a majority of decisions in allocating resources in the sanitation sector.
    • - The vast majority of surveyed countries have no comprehensive process in place to track funding to water and sanitation. Consequently, countries are unable to confirm whether funding was directed to investment needs, nor credibly report back on whether they have met financial allocation targets.
    • - In terms of service standards, formal sanitation service providers typically do not report the results of internal monitoring to regulatory authorities and/or use the results to trigger corrective action.


The GLAAS report collected information on the definition and use of key performance indicators to track progress and impact in WASH. These findings on country monitoring practices mean we have the building blocks in place to establish a global baseline of data on country capacity to track financial, equity and service performance based on defined indicators.

Encouraging efforts to improve monitoring at all levels is an absolute prerequisite to reducing inequalities in WASH access and securing health benefits to the most vulnerable. 


By Bruce Gordon, Coordinator Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health (WSH), WHO

Picture: Clarissa Brocklehurst, Senior Advisor in Water and Sanitation and Bruce Gordon, Coordinator Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health (WSH), WHO
©2014 Robert Campell Photography