Opinion

Briefing highlights cross-sector WASH solutions for diseases

Published on 20 November 2017

Image of Naomi Marks
Naomi Marks

Project Communications Manager

IDS has co-produced the first of four briefings offering new interdisciplinary thinking to help combat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a diverse collection of infections effecting more than 1.4 billion mainly poor and vulnerable people worldwide.

This is the image for the Briefing that highlights cross-sector WASH solutions for diseases.

Photo credit: A fisherman casting a net at Barombi Kotto, Cameroon, where urogenital schistosomiasis is endemic in this crater lake. Dr Suzy Campbell 

The briefing, Connecting WASH with NTDS: A cross-sector imperative, puts the spotlight on the essential role of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for a sustainable solution towards NTDs.

It presents the findings of a workshop in which COUNTDOWN, a five-year Department for International Development (DFID) funded project led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), brought together experts from different disciplines from IDS and LSTM to discuss how WASH activities can be prioritised in NTD interventions. It makes five recommendations:

  1. Promote intersectoral working,
  2. Embed NTD action in local realities,
  3. Recognise women’s labour as finite,
  4. Develop strong, robust information systems, and
  5. Retain flexibility in policies and interventions.

The briefing’s publication coincides with the ISNTD Water Festival taking place at the Natural History Museum in London, on Thursday.

COUNTDOWN collaboration

NTDs remain a disturbing reality for most people in the developing world. IDS recently joined the COUNTDOWN collaboration which, with partners in Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and USA, is researching ways of increasing the reach of NTD treatment in different contexts. 

The WASH workshop, held in July, saw Dr Linda Waldman and Dr Gerry Bloom, from IDS’s health & nutrition cluster, and Professor Lyla Mehta and Dr Jeremy Allouche, from IDS’s resource politics cluster, sit down with a parasitologist, a nutritionist and a public health expert from LSTM.

People’s environments dictate how they come into contact with NTDs, especially those such as schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis which are acquired through contact with infected water or faeces. Schistosomiasis affects over a quarter of a billion people and soil-transmitted helminthiasis 1.5 billion.

The World Health Organization (WHO) deploys mass drug administration (MDA) as the main tool in controlling NTDs, but it has become evident that preventive chemotherapy alone will not eliminate them as those treated often become re-infected. The root causes of transmission lie in factors such as the environment, limited or no access to safe, clean water, and effective sanitation and hygiene.

Since 2015, WHO has pushed for WASH to be addressed in controlling NTDs but to date limited action has been taken.

COUNTDOWN plans to convene three further workshops with IDS researchers to consider other aspects of NTD and development. The next will consider the role of agriculture.

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