Assignment name: Pre-Feasibility analysis for the sustainable and inclusive provision of water and sanitation services to refugees, IDPs and hosting communities in Eastern Africa

Project duration: January 2020 – June 2020

Funder: KFW Development Bank

The challenge

Many refugee and IDP settlements in Eastern Africa have only limited access to basic infrastructure, which are often provided by international and local NGOs and managed and funded by international organisations such as UNHCR and UNICEF. In many cases these can be expensive and unreliable.

However, in Gambella in western Ethiopia, a new approach has been developed, centred around the construction of a more permanent water pumping, treatment and distribution system, and the establishment of a local water utility to provide integrated services to both the local host community and 400,000 refugees from South Sudan. The new pumped system is providing water to three separate settlements of refugees, with a reduction in production costs from approximately 10 USD/m3, as much of it was previously being trucked, to 0.7 USD/m3.

Through funding from KFW, in cooperation with UNICEF and UNHCR, WSUP Advisory made an assessement of potential locations for investment where conditions would be suitable for a regional programme to roll-out a similar approach for other refugee and IDP settlements in East and Horn of Africa. The aim of such a programme would be to transition from the current care and maintenance water supply model in the settlements to a model based on self-reliance, sustainable organisation, and an improvement of cost efficiency.

WSUP approach

Following a visit to Gambella and the newly formed Itang Water utility, our team identified the factors which had influenced the success of the approach, such as security, political will, the strengths and weaknesses of the local WASH sector, population sizes and technical factors. These criteria and influencing factors were combined into a framework through which some 200 potential project locations across East Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda) could be assessed and ranked.

In all, 11 potentially favourable locations were identified and further assessed. At each one, consideration was given to the capacity of the existing utility that would be supported to provide an integrated service, along with the technical requirements to be able to provide an effective and cost-efficient service.

WSUP Advisory also proposed a governance and management model that will be needed to oversee a possible multi-country multi-year programme across the region, proposing Project Management Teams at country level, rising to a Programme Board and Programme Management Unit at regional level.


As of Spring 2021, and following on from WSUP Advisory’s assessment, KFW and UNICEF are in the preliminary stages of appointing consultancy firms to support both capacity development within four local water utility companies in Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan, and structural and engineering works to improve water supply infrastructure.

This new regional programme aims to improve social cohesion through improved water supply, sanitation and hygiene services by focussing on increasing efficiency, affordability, sustainability of service and accessibility for equitable service delivery to refugees, IDPs and host communities.

Learn more

Blog: April 2021 – Integrated water services for refugees and host communities is more that just providing taps