What Good is Water Access when Infrastructure Breaks Down? Ask Hilton

The Hilton Foundation has held a decades-long commitment to clean and safe water access. With $90 million in WASH funding over the past 20 years, this commitment reflects in the foundation’s grantmaking. The majority of Hilton’s WASH grants are awarded to organizations working in rural Africa, with some going to support projects in India and Mexico. Very rarely, will Hilton stray from this regional priority path.

Keeping in line with its historical grantmaking, Hilton recently awarded a nearly $7 million grant to WASH programs operating in Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Although the geographic region aligns with Hilton’s historical WASH grantmaking, these recent grants are addressing issues outside of access.

The Hilton Foundation’s $6.9 million grant was awarded to WaterAid an organization with which Hilton has had a relationship for a handful of years. Adding this latest grant to the tally, Hilton has awarded WaterAid just under $18 million in grants since 2009. The grant supports the WASH direction the foundation adopted back in 2010, when it laid out its new WASH plan. One of the major initiatives of this new plan was support for sustainable and scalable water access, as well as developing market-based or subsidized programs for the repair and maintenance of those water systems.

Related: Here’s a Look at the Hilton Foundation’s Focus on the “Quiet Tragedy” of Water Related Disease

In other words, Hilton zeroed in on the idea—which get a lot of play in WASH circles—that providing access is only one part of the solution; access becomes moot if the infrastructure falls into disrepair or breaks down completely. Hilton’s three-year, $6.9 million grant will address repair and access issues by taking a two-pronged approach.

First, a portion of the grant focuses on repairing existing infrastructure and addressing water quality issues. This initial portion of the grant will also work to improve the maintenance skills of local people in order to help maintain infrastructure related to water points.

The second portion of the grant focuses on ensuring that health centers in trachoma-endemic areas of Mali are adequately equipped with basic water supplies. Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eye that spreads by contact with an infected person’s hands or clothes and is one of the world’s leading causes of preventable blindness. Combating preventable blindness, by the way, is high on Hilton’s grantmaking priority list. Since 1995, the foundation has committed more than $40 million toward reducing the spread of trachoma, which is widely spread by lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

WaterAid’s $6.9 million grant marks its largest from Hilton to date. This may be evidence of a growing relationship between Hilton and the international water organization.