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The Global Handwashing Partnership

[Event Summary] Bridging WASH and Global Health: Integrated Strategies to Improve Child Health

February 10, 2021

On January 27, 2021, the CORE Group’s WASH and Health Interest Group and One Health Interest Group hosted an online session focused on bridging WASH and global health to improve child health outcomes as part of this year’s CORE Group Global Health Practitioner Conference.

Why integrate WASH and Global Health?

The session was moderated by Ms. Aarin Palomares of the Global Handwashing Partnership and opened with remarks from Ms. Lisa Hilmi, CORE Group’s Executive Director. Most recently, the CORE Group has increased its commitment to integrated programming with the establishment of the WASH and Health Interest Group and One Health Interest Group, both of which focus on the intersection of WASH and health issues. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) can have cross-cutting impacts across a range of global health issues, including nutrition, early childhood development, disability inclusion, and neglected tropical diseases. To achieve the goals and targets set within the Sustainable Development agenda, practitioners must adopt strategies and design programs that maximize benefits across multiple areas, including health and WASH.

Summary of Snap Presentations

The session included a series of snap presentations, showcasing examples of the benefits and challenges of integrating WASH with global health programming.

Nutrition

Mr. Benjamin Masila, an Associate Technical Officer at FHI 360 and the Technical Lead for the Afya Uzazi Program, presented an example from his work in Kenya. In the last decade, there have been a series of efforts to ensure joint programming that focuses on WASH and nutrition with the goal of improving the health of the mother and child. With Afya Uzazi, integrated strategies were important in maximizing program impacts.

One Health

Dr. Kirk Dearden, a Senior Technical Advisor at IMA, presented an example of a One Health intervention. One Health is a multisectoral, transdisciplinary approach that promotes the interconnections between the health of humans, animals, plants and the planet we share. With the goal of improving a child’s health, practitioners must think in new ways abut how humans and animals interact.

WASH and health care facilities

Dr. Kaninika Mitra, a Health Specialist at UNICEF, presented on WASH in health care facilties. Her presentation highlighted successful initiative to promote quality of care in health facilities in India. With 2021 being the Year of the Health and Care Worker, it is especially important to focus on ensuring the availability of key WASH services in health care settings.

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

Ms. Arielle Dolegui, a Technical Advisor at World Vision and the Vice Chair of the NTD NGO Network, presented on the importance of integrating WASH with NTDs programming. She presented two examples from Ghana and Sierra Leone. In addition to presenting country-level efforts, she also highlighted global efforts, including the recently launched WHO 2021-2030 NTD Roadmap.

Moderated Panel Discussion

Following the presentations, the presenters along with Mr. Rob Salerno, Director of Health Security Practice at DAI, convened for a broader discussion around WASH and health integration. The discussion focused on the value-add of integrating WASH with global health and discussed challenges, such as challenges in infrastructure maintenance and human resources. Overall, the key takeaways from the session include the following:

  • As we move forward, we must rethink the ways in which we support child growth and development to include better coordination across multiple sectors like WASH, nutrition, agriculture and health. The integrated nature of the Sustainable Development goals challenges practitioners to reduce siloes and adopt strategies that lead to benefits across different areas.
  • It is important to identify and address the challenges around integrated programming, including shifting the narrative around funding and addressing human resource capacity. We must build capacity among practitioners to reduce the traditional siloed approaches and unlock the potential for cross-collaboration between these interconnected sectors.
  • As practitioners move forward with their efforts, it is important to look at existing multi-sectoral partnerships and initiatives, such as the Global Handwashing Partnership, the NTD NGO Network, the Clean, Fed & Nurtured Coalition, and CORE’s various interest groups. There’s a multitude of evidence and case studies around WASH and health and it will be important to build off of what is already known.

Find the presentation slides here. Please view the full recording here (registration required).

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