Published on Africa Can End Poverty

The Urgency of Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Five Key Numbers

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Tanzania has commendably raised its ambition and the scope of its commitment to expanding access to water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)  as seen in its adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and in the scale of the current Water Sector Development Program (WSDP-3, 2022–2026). The impressive numbers just coming in show this commitment is already starting to pay off. The National Panel Survey (NPS) (2020/2021), released last month, shows notable improvements since NPS 2014/2015 with 40%of households gaining access to improved sanitation (an increase from 25%) and half the population of Tanzania now accessing clean water in the rainy season and two-thirds obtaining access during the dry season.

However, an estimated 10% of preventable deaths are occurring each year because of inadequate WASH services. The 18th Tanzania Economic Update: Clean Water, Bright Future: The Transformative Impact of Investing in WASH provides compelling analysis and insights summed up in five key numbers below – all of which point to the urgency of prioritizing access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene services to all Tanzanians.

$2.4 billion

Inadequate WASH services are not only responsible for over 10% of preventable deaths in Tanzania, but they also cost the economy more than $2.4 billion each year in excess medical costs and lost productivity. This is equivalent to 3.2%of Tanzania’s 2022 GDP. Marginalized groups and poor households nationwide bear a disproportionate share of the social and economic costs incurred by inadequate WASH services.

33 million

A total estimated 33 million school days are lost by Tanzanian school children combined each year due to illness, or 3 days per child per year, with WASH-related diseases being a key cause. WASH-related conditions and sicknesses cause cognitive deficits among children that permanently impair their capacity to learn. Menstruating girls avoid school because of lack of WASH. Also, many children who are physically present in school suffer from WASH-related sickness and hunger, which undermines their ability to learn. These factors systematically reduce the effectiveness of investments in education.

$1.4 billion

Inadequate WASH access has deeply negative effects on workforce productivity, which threaten the government’s objectives for growth and poverty reduction. Each year, at least 6 million working days total are lost by working-Tanzanians due to WASH-related illnesses, while the time required to reach distant water and sanitation services costs adults another 1.1 billion hours, for a total of over $1.4 billion in foregone income each year, or 1.9% of GDP. Lost labor hours and diminished productivity continually impinge on the government’s efforts to attract investment, encourage entrepreneurship, and raise living standards.

$6.5 billion

The implementation of WSDP-3, which will help provide near universal WASH access, requires an estimated upfront investment of $6.5 billion. This is steep by any measure. However, the benefits of improved WASH access make such an investment highly cost-effective and could have a transformative impact on the country’s social and economic development. The WSDP-3 implementation could reduce Tanzania’s economic losses by $1.9 billion per year by 2030. Within five years, these savings would enable the government to generate benefits equal to its initial investment of $4.1 billion.


Based on global analysis conducted by the International Water Association, achieving the goals of the WSDP-3 (i.e., near universal access to adequate water supply and sanitation services) could create up to 24,000 professional and permanent jobs, in addition to initial construction work. These positions would be necessary for the operations and maintenance of WASH infrastructure and services and would contribute to the livelihood of millions.

Inequality: Insufficient WASH services worsen multiple forms of socioeconomic inequality, hindering progress on a wide range of policy goals. Apart from the disproportionate burden inadequate access imposes on women, children and the poor and vulnerable, it generally hurts rural communities which are already poorer on average than their urban counterparts, and face far higher per capita costs due to the additional time and effort needed to reach rural WASH infrastructure.

The World Bank is committed to partnering with Tanzania to advance its efforts towards achieving and sustaining universal WASH access  through a combination of policy measures, institutional capacity building, and new financial arrangements at the national, subnational, and community levels. There is an urgent need to enhance and incentivize private sector participation in the expansion of WASH services by creating a supportive regulatory environment and investment climate. We commend the government for its renewed commitment to the WSDP-3 targets and commitments for increased funding, especially through results-based financing mechanisms, to the levels necessary to achieve universal WASH access by 2030.


Nathan Belete

Country Director for Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, The World Bank

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