Assessing Microfinance for Water and Sanitation: Exploring Opportunities for Sustainable Scaling Up

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation



Case Study Sector


More than 2.4 million people die every year from diarrhea and other water-related illnesses because they don’t have safe, sustainable water and sanitation. This crisis persists, in part, because the financial services that could help vulnerable populations pay for water and sanitation remain largely unavailable to the poor.
A 2008 study, Assessing Microfinance in Water & Sanitation: Exploring Opportunities for Sustainable Scaling Up, commissioned by the foundation’s Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene initiative, examines the potential market for expanding small-scale banking and credit services to the poor, enabling them to pay for sustainable water and sanitation.
The study draws its information from the following sources:
•    Global datasets and activities in 38 countries throughout Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
•    Interviews with nearly 100 practitioners from the microfinance and water, sanitation, & hygiene sectors.
The study includes the following details:
•    Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have sought to overcome the financial barriers to the poor through microlending schemes. While preliminary evidence suggests that these approaches can work, there is limited understanding about whether they present a long-term solution that could be scaled to benefit millions.
•    The potential market size is estimated to be $12 billion over the next 10 years.
•    Examples from around the world show what is—and isn't—working to achieve sustainability and scale.



  • Field Building
  • Partnership
  • Strategy


  • Africa
  • Asia

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