Scaling up Water and Sanitation in Ghana


  • A World Bank project in Ghana now has additional financing to bring water and sanitation services to over 500,000 people.
  • The project shows the value of scaling-up, efficiency and building effective institutions.
  • This work is vital to help slow the spread of COVID-19.


Photo Credit: Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Sanitation and Water Project

When it comes to tackling a crisis, scaling-up can be more effective than starting over. That’s one of the lessons from the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area Sanitation and Water Project (GAMA-SWP), which recently received US$125 million in additional financing to increase access to water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Building on the project’s existing achievements, the additional financing aims to increase access to improved water supply and sanitation services to more than half-a-million people in low-income urban communities of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) and the Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Area (GKMA).

The project contributes to Ghana’s COVID-19 pandemic response by strengthening key sector institutions and building resilience against future shocks and disease outbreaks that disproportionately impact the poor.

Access to safely managed WASH services will be increased and good hygiene practices will be promoted. The project already supports innovative behavior change campaigns and will continue to take a multi-faceted approach to tackling the pandemic and other hygiene-related challenges.

The project offers several lessons:

Scale-up what works and provide resources for others too

“This additional financing means the project can build on a tried-and-tested approach”, explains Yitbarek Tessema, World Bank Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist and the project’s Task Team Leader.

“Because of our experience here, we have a strong team and tools already in place, we know what’s needed and we know what works. It’s not about starting from scratch – it’s about having solid foundations to work from.”

Ensuring others can build on the project’s work is another important principle. Since 2017, the project has supported the installation of more than 27,000 household toilets in low-income areas benefiting a total of 217,000 people through a combination of targeted financial support to households, innovative technology and simplified payment methods.

Guidance manuals and other resources on the provision of sanitation services are publicly available and can be used by partners and practitioners operating in the same space thereby reducing the need for them to start from scratch.

Photo Credit: Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Sanitation and Water Project

When it comes to providing water, efficiency matters just as much as expansion

The US$125 million will fund about 120 km of new water pipes and 10,000 new household connections. Expanding the water distribution network in this way – along with installing essential hardware like distribution mains, booster pumps and water meters – should improve services for 300,000 people living in low-income communities.

It will also support operational efficiency improvements within the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), the national urban water utility. An emphasis will be placed on reducing losses from non-revenue water (NRW) which is produced but lost either through physical losses such as leaks or through apparent loses such as metering inaccuracies.

The World Bank will continue supporting GWCL in this area by undertaking a baseline model with the most accurate information, upgrading outdated systems and providing training to improve operations and maintenance with the aim of reducing NRW losses by 23,000 cubic meters a day – equivalent to over nine Olympic-size swimming pools.

“These improved operational efficiencies will contribute to a more reliable and better managed water supply system that is able to cope with increasing demand from the rapidly growing urban population,” says Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Ghana.

“It will also provide GWCL with additional resources and allow them to increase their customer base.” The project also supports the development and implementation of a water supply master plan that takes into consideration the impact of climate change.

This will guide the GWCL towards effective management and development of the water resources and boost beneficiaries’ resilience to droughts and other climate change related impacts.

Photo Credit: Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Sanitation and Water Project

It’s not only about fixing the pipes – it’s about fixing the institutions that fix the pipes

The funding will also support the implementation of GWCL’s Performance Improvement Program (PIP) through two global initiatives funded by the World Bank’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund the Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP).

First, the Utilities of the Future (UoF) initiative seeks to support GWCL in building a vision for the future of efficient and resilient Water and Sanitation Service provision and to support clients in turning this vision into reality.

The UoF Diagnostic and Action Planning Tool assesses the current maturity level of the utility, determines realistic objectives and assists in the preparation and implementation of action plans.

Secondly, the Field Level Leadership (FLL) approach understands that success depends in large part on how well change is understood, embraced and executed by individuals across the ranks of the implementing organizations. FLL cultivates champions for reform and improvement and aims to complement GWCL’s PIP in developing a broad cadre of change leaders.

Inclusion means a laser focus on those who may get left behind

The project has provided WASH facilities in 260 school compounds with separate blocks for girls and boys. Each school was provided with water supply and adequate handwashing facilities, both within and outside the toilet blocks so that children can access the handwashing facilities easily and more frequently – essential to slow the spread of COVID-19. The focus on handwashing and the behavior change campaigns were aimed at reducing the spread of water and sanitation related diseases and has provided valuable lessons for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Nii Armah Tetteh, a resident of the Bubiashie community within the Okaikoi South Municipality in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area, the project’s commitment to inclusion has not only changed his life but his daughter’s too.

Mr. Tetteh is blind and his daughter often had to skip university so that she could escort her father to the nearest public bathroom. But thanks to the GAMA-SWP, he now has a biodigester toilet with a handrail in his house, meaning he can live with more convenience and dignity and his daughter can pursue her studies safe in this knowledge. As Mr. Tetteh says: “It’s a good thing, everyone should get one.”

The additional financing means that 42,000 additional toilets attached to bio-digesters or sewerage networks will be constructed in selected low-income areas in GAMA and GKMA. About 150 sanitation facility units will also be provided under this component to selected schools and healthcare facilities which presently either lack sanitation facilities or have facilities that are inadequate or in dire shape.

All school sanitation facilities will consider gender, menstrual hygiene management (MHM), and disability-related priorities such as provision of separate male and female toilet facilities in schools with locks on doors, handwashing facilities, changing rooms for girls and a hygienic and safe space for disposal of used sanitary products.


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