Campaigning for better WASH in health carefacilities
By Cor Dietvorst
WHO is launching a global plan of action to improveaccess to WASH at all health care facilities. This kind ofintersectoral collaboration is set to become a major themein the post-2015 development agenda.
Better access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) inhealth care facilities is crucial for mothers and babies tostay healthy. It is just as important as curative measuressays Dr Maria Neira, the Director of Public Health andEnvironment at the World Health Organization (WHO).She announced that WHO will launch a global plan ofaction by March 2015 on improving access to WASH at allhealth care facilities.
In December 2014, a group of academics and representativesfrom WASH and maternal and newborn health (MNH)agencies, including WHO, presented a call to action forintersectoral collaboration. They backed up their call withrecent SHARE-funded research, which found that less thana third of births in Tanzania take place in a setting with safewater and sanitation. Forthcoming WHO research surveyedhealth care facilities in 54 low-income countries and foundthat 38 percent did not have an improved water source,while 50 percent lacked improved sanitation.
Back in 2012, Simavi commissioned IRC to carry outa review of how access to safe water, sanitation andapplication of hygiene practices can affect maternal health.The review concluded that “some very basic elements ofhuman development related to water, sanitation and hygienethat were accepted in the 19th and early 20th centuries arestill unavailable to a large proportion of pregnant women inthe 21st century”.
Embedding WASH in other sectors will increase thehealth, social and economic benefits of the proposedSustainable Development Goals (SDGs). An internationalgroup of WASH NGOs, led by Simavi and IRC, launcheda call in December 2014 to incorporate WASH targets forschools, health centres and the workplace in the post-2015development agenda.
This all contributes to the growing realisation that “accessto WASH facilities at home is simply not enough to achievecomplete behavioural change and sustainable impact”.Intersectoral collaboration is set to become a major themefor the global development sector in the future.