Hilton Foundation's Quest to Bring Safe Water to All

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Hilton Foundation's Quest to Bring Safe Water to All

How can philanthropy be a vanguard in confronting the life-and-death challenges facing millions of people worldwide in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)?

Put that question to Chris Dunston, senior program officer at the Hilton Foundation, and he’ll give you this answer: Philanthropists can assume some of the risk by showing larger organizations, such as the World Bank, that WASH models like the one Hilton is trying in Ghana are effective.

A lot rides on Dunston’s answer, and on Hilton’s Ghana effort, since 783 million people around the globe lack access to clean, safe water, and 2.4 billion lack adequate sanitation facilities—resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths from diarrhoeal disease each year, mostly of children. Those are grim numbers to dent without effective solutions that can be scaled up and backed by funders like the World Bank.

As we’ve reported before, Hilton supports WASH groups working in water-stressed regions in Africa, India, and Mexico. It has staked out a prominent spot in the WASH space, along with funders like the Gates, Ikea, and Caterpillar foundations. Hilton’s strategy in this area has been evolving in recent years, as we’ve reported, and Ghana is one of six countries with active projects as part of Hilton’s 2017-2021 WASH grantmaking blueprint.

This work focuses on advancing WASH solutions and models that are proven and show promise, strengthening in-country water governance systems, and “building and disseminating credible and actionable evidence.”

In Ghana and elsewhere, Hilton is working on district-based programs to bring multiple disciplines together. The goal is simple: to “get the job done" and promote water-service delivery that can withstand time and regional political infighting and bureaucracy, which are major challenges.

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