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The Global Handwashing Partnership

When the World Invests in WASH, Everyone Wins

May 17, 2016

IMG_2256This week, the Global Public-Private Partnership is excited to join the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, where, in addition to attending sessions, and talking about the importance of hygiene, we will present on a panel discussing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) for girls’ and women’s health and development.

It is only the end of the first full day of the conference, but I feel as though I have already experienced a full week’s worth of inspiration. A common call for integration has rung loud throughout pre-conference sessions, the opening plenary, and today’s side events.

As you might know, the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing helped found the Clean, Fed & Nurtured Community of Practice—a coalition of organizations that are exploring and promoting the integration of WASH, nutrition, and early childhood development. The newly developed BabyWASH Coalition has similar aims, and at their session on Monday afternoon a panelist remarked that, “A child is a whole being. We should respond to this fact by implementing programs that are integrated and focus on them in a holistic manner.” This comment stuck with me because I agree—people, families, and communities don’t exist within siloed sectors. And, while there is some pragmatism to working within sectors, collaboration with others can be strategic, impactful, and present a great opportunity to add value.

The potential for WASH integration was also highlighted at a session on Essential Care in the Humanitarian Setting. This event drew from the Global Development Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, which found that about half of the health gains for this population come from improvements outside the health sector, including WASH. The comment was made that WASH is a health-enhancing sector. In that vein, I would add that WASH is education-enhancing, equity-enhancing, and prosperity-enhancing.

IMG_2257It has been very encouraging to see WASH mentioned across sectors at Women Deliver, and I hope this will continue to be the case throughout the remaining days. Tomorrow, I am looking forward to speaking at a concurrent session exploring the role of WASH for Women’s and Girls’ Health and Wellbeing, and continuing to engage with other attendees around the significant impact hygiene can have on the lives of all people, but particularly women and girls around the globe.

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