New opportunities for WASH and health integration
Photo: A mother in Vietnam helps her children wash their hands while wearing face masks. The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the links between health and handwashing.
Health and water are inextricably linked. Yet, policies and programs related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are too often kept separate from public health policies and programs. The need for coordination between the WASH and health sectors is a drumbeat that we have been sounding for more decade, and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the central role that measures like handwashing with soap and WASH in health care facilities play to keep communities healthy. When health and WASH improvements reach children in a holistic way, they offer greater efficiencies and impact. The same is true for joint advocacy for the two issues.
To serve this purpose, DefeatDD founded the Health/WASH Network in 2009 in partnership with WaterAid. For more than a decade, the Network has served as a collaboration opportunity for a diverse set of advocacy organizations working across child health, maternal health, immunization, water, sanitation, and hygiene. As health programming grew more integrated over the years, we came to recognize that, to push WASH and health integration to the next step, we’d need to reach even more groups.
That’s where CORE Group came in. CORE is a global health advocacy organization that convenes practitioners and public health professionals in global community health to share knowledge, evidence, and best practices and advances dialogue at the country and global levels. The Health/WASH Network connected with CORE Group about the possibility of transferring the Network into a CORE Interest Group to tap into CORE’s existing broad membership and reach. They agreed, and in fall 2020, the new WASH and Health Interest Group was born!
We are thrilled that this new interest group is being co-chaired by Aarin Palomares of FHI360, Benjamin K. Masila of FHI360 Kenya (Afya Uzazi WASH), and Moses Mathenge of WaterAid Kenya. Its membership reflects a community of people dedicated to elevating WASH and health integration, building on existing efforts and leveraging new opportunities to bring the intersection of WASH and health to the forefront.
While the group is still new, it’s off to a running start. On Wednesday, January 27, 2021 the group hosted a session at CORE Group’s virtual Global Health Practitioner Conference entitled Building Bridges between WASH and Global Health: Integrated Strategies to Improve Child Health. Speakers from FHI 360 Kenya, UNICEF India, World Vision, and IMA World Health highlighted the importance of integrating WASH and nutrition, WASH in health care facilities, WASH and animal husbandry, and WASH and neglected tropical diseases. The session emphasized cross-sectoral partnerships and engagement, breaking down silos, and coming together to improve child health outcomes.
We believe the future of global health—and our planet—relies on deliberate partnership and integration. This new group and others like it are helping bring the WASH and health sectors together to solve big problems. As Kaninika Mitra of UNICEF India shared during the conference session, “WASH is the responsibility of everyone.”
We hope you’ll join us!