When it comes to funding water, sanitation and hygiene, the Gates Foundation is keen on innovation. This the funder that famously backed a wide-ranging search for a better toilet and whose co-founder, Bill Gates, recently drank clean water that was formerly sewer water. It's also invested in a company that is turning raw sewage into a source of clean-burning energy.
The foundation’s WASH grantmaking isn’t nearly as substantial as its other programs, but this is Gates we’re talking about, so while water and sanitation grants typically number less than 50 per year, you would be hard pressed to find a single grant that falls below the six-figure mark. In fact, a good number of WASH grants awarded by Gates go well above $1 million mark. The foundation’s latest $3.7 million grant to the Mumbai-based Impact Foundation is a great example.
The Impact Foundation will use the funds to foster a “community of practice” for urban sanitation across India. The foundation will also use a portion of the funds for projects in non-sewered sanitation and fecal sludge management.
The goals of Gates’ WASH giving are to advance access to sustainable sanitation services and to support the “development of radically new sanitation technologies.” According to the foundation, increased sanitation “contributes to economic development, delivering up to $5 in social and economic benefits for every $1 invested.”
The Gates Foundation may not put up as much money for WASH efforts as it does for say, vaccine development, but it does tie its water and sanitation grants into its other areas of grantmaking interests. That makes sense, given that WASH is inextricably linked to diarrhea and enteric diseases and malnutrition, especially in children.
Gates is well known for investing in the prevention and treatment of enteric and diarrheal diseases, awarding hundreds of grants per year to those ends. Meanwhile, it recently pledged $776 million over the next six years to nutrition efforts around the globe both in the form of grants and investments.
All this work links back to water and sanitation. Access to clean water and sanitation prevents enteric and diarrheal diseases. This, in turn, helps kids retain the necessary nutrients to grow and thrive, leading to more lives saved, which is the ultimate goal for the Gates Foundation.