Contribution to national plans for sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services in Rwanda

As we approach the celebration of 2018 World Water Day (March 22nd), WaterAid reflected on its contribution to access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene under its partnership with the Government of Rwanda.  WaterAid’s vision is of “a world where everyone has access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene”.  The international organisation works in 38 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation. Globally, since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 24 million people with sanitation. 

Since 2010, WaterAid works in Rwanda to contribute to government’s plans in both service delivery and capacity development for sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). To achieve its goals, the organisation engaged in partnerships at the district and national level, with key partners including the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Ministry of Health, the University of Rwanda/College of Medicine and Health Sciences (CMHS), Bugesera and Nyamagabe District, Compagnons Fontainiers du Rwanda (COFORWA) and many other likeminded organizations working in Rwanda.

The focus of operations has been on Bugesera district, supporting water supply and sanitation in remote communities, schools and public places, while most of hygiene efforts were oriented towards the roll out of the national approach of Community Based Environmental Health Promotion Programme (CBEHPP). WaterAid has supported Bugesera district reaching 53,000 people with clean water, 10,295 with improved sanitation and more than 45,000 people with hygiene.  At national level, the organisation has been supporting the government’s mechanisms for WASH Sector Wide Approaches, the process of policy review and the performance improvement plans at the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC).  The expansion of activities to Nyamagabe since 2017 is expected to help cover fully the district with hygiene intervention using the above-mentioned national approach of CBEHPP, supplemented with community sanitation marketing, and the improvement of sanitation and water supply in schools.

While we recognise the specific challenges that the districts where the organisation works from still face to achieve full access to WASH services, we find working through the existing structures and national policy frameworks as empowering and great factor of ownership and sustainability for WASH services.   

Rwanda has a vision of achieving 100% coverage of basic water supply and basic sanitation services by 2020 and safely managed services by 2030.  In terms of strategic planning, Rwanda has been and remains very clear on the direction of travel towards the realisation of these ambitious targets.  The “Vision 2020” with the overall goal for Rwanda to become a middle-income nation has been the main reference document to planning for both government and partners at all levels during the past 18 years. A series of national strategies (PRSP: 2002-2007, EDPRS1: 2008-2012, and EDPRS2: 2013-18) and related sector strategies have provided the policies and tools for attaining Vision 2020 aspirations. Vision 2050 that aspires to take Rwanda beyond high income to high living standards by the middle of the century is already in place and of recent (2017), a 7- Years Government Programme: National Strategy for Transformation (NST1), was approved by government to serve as the “implementation instrument for the remainder of Vi
sion 2020 and for the first four years of the journey under Vision 2050”.

It is quite motivating to WaterAid as an organisation solely focused on WASH to note that all the existing strategies and policy instruments that inform the national development agenda in Rwanda have clearly mentioned the focus on universal access to clean water, adequate sanitation and hygiene for all.  We know that Rwanda has been among the few African countries leading on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) including the targets on the proportion of population using an improved drinking water source and an improved sanitation facility under the MDG number 7.  Generally, the national progress towards access to water and sanitation services- especially since the past 23 years- has been impressive, reaching 88.8% access to improved drinking water sources and 87.4% access to improved sanitation facilities in the general population in 2017. The analysis of the existing data suggests that for the past 17 years, the average percentage increase of households using improved water and sanitatio
n facilities per year is 1.3% and 2.4% respectively.  Obviously, a greater momentum is required if full coverage is to be achieved in a couple of years, but this is undeniably possible given the new emphasis of the Government in this domain.

Meanwhile, it was estimated that the Rwanda would require $134 million to build and maintain universal basic coverage and an additional $286 million to build and maintain safely managed services each year up to 2030. The financing gap to provide universal basic services is evaluated at US $ 82 million annually.  While we remain cognizant that the achievement of SDG targets will require more than finances, this funding gap however, calls development partners, private sector and others involved in water, sanitation and hygiene sector, to  act differently. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets 6.1 and 6.2 on drinking-water supply, sanitation and hygiene calls for new efforts, strategies and stronger collaboration between governments, development partners, private sector and civil society organisations.

The existing high level political will, good leadership, clear strategies/plans, intentional investment (both human and financial) in WASH, all of these adding to the confidence gained from overall high performance on MDGs, are combined elements that give assurance to many, that hitting SDG 6 by 2030 in Rwanda is not a mere dream but a realisable target.  WaterAid is calling for overseas development aid to water, sanitation and hygiene to increase their current levels of investments in Rwanda, with an emphasis on grant financing, thereby joining the government’s efforts to expand and sustain inclusive services for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) based on both current and future demand.

As expressed in its new strategic plan 2016-21, WaterAid Rwanda is committed to continue to work with other stakeholders in the WASH sector to provide technical and financial support to the Government of Rwanda for equitable and sustainable services within the framework of national strategies and plans.



Our contact in Rwanda:


Telephone: +250 788 318 824 

Fair View Plaza, KG 624 St Website:   

You can also follow us @WateraidRwanda on Twitter.