More than $120 Million in Commitments Announced at Historic Convening for Global Health Philanthropies, non-governmental organizations, U.S. government agencies, financial institutions, corporations, universities, a Nobel laureate, a First Lady and the UN Secretary-General made history in global health — to ensure that every person, wherever they live, will receive healthcare at a hospital or health clinic where sustainable water, soap and toilets are available. Nearly 80 commitments to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in healthcare facilities were publicly announced at a gathering in Washington, DC, on June 19, 2019. [See summary of each commitment here.]
Young professionals from around the world were represented in this 2-minute video.
There are few places of greater vulnerability than to be sick and poor, or a woman giving birth, in a healthcare facility without the foundation of public health: water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). No global health problem is more serious — and solvable — than getting WASH into healthcare facilities.
Every year, 17 million women in these countries give birth in facilities without adequate WASH. Forty-five percent of healthcare facilities in the world’s Least Developed Countries lack basic water services, according to the first-ever global baseline report, recently released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF (April 2019). This report, drawing on data from over 560,000 healthcare facilities in 125 countries, found that globally some two billion people use healthcare facilities without basic water services and 1.5 billion people use healthcare facilities without sanitation.
Funding commitments announced on June 19 totaled over $120 million, with millions more in technical assistance, research, evaluation, training, long-term maintenance strategies, and advocacy. Thousands of healthcare facilities stand to benefit across some 50 countries throughout Africa, Latin America, and Asia. This U.S.-based event will be followed by a global event on WASH in healthcare facilities in Zambia (September 9-11, 2019) organized by WHO and UNICEF, to focus on country action and global work plans.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the event with this message by pre-recorded video: "Last year, I announced a Call to Action to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services in health facilities, as we strive to achieve universal health coverage. UNICEF and WHO responded, detailing specific actions governments can take by 2030. Member States’ commitments were embodied in the Resolution adopted at the recent World Health Assembly. I urge you to offer all your support. Together, we can solve this crisis."
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s President and CEO, Peter Laugharn, a leader in WASH funding, offered the keynote and a $13.5 million commitment: “Part of our commitment is financial. But that’s not the most important part of our commitment. We’re developing a new model of partnership and collaboration through demonstration sites at the district-level in six countries that focuses on strengthening the capacity of local actors. We see this as benefiting not only the WASH community, but others working in health and education, too.”
Leaders from dozens of private organizations offered commitments alongside the World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Among the dozens of dignitaries offering commitments:
Nobel Laureate Dr. James Cobey, speaking on behalf of the 80+ member organizations of The G4 Alliance, committed to advocating for clean and safe WASH in the world’s health facilities as an essential requirement for safe surgery: “Each year, more than 234 million surgical procedures are performed globally for a wide range of common conditions requiring surgical care. Every single surgical procedure poses a risk of infection. For those that take place in health facilities without basic WASH…safely performing even the most basic surgical intervention is nearly impossible. Many studies show that surgical site infections are the most costly, common — and dangerous — hospital infections. How can even the most skilled health worker perform safe surgery and avoid infection without clean water and sanitation?”
First Lady of the Republic of Colombia and Goodwill Ambassador for SDG 17, María Juliana Ruiz, announced a Latin American First Ladies Initiative by video: “At the Concordia Summit that convened recently in Bogota Colombia, as Goodwill Ambassador for the 17th SDG [Sustainable Development Goal] —yes that one that calls for partnership — I call on First Ladies through Latin America to join me in championing this cause. Our children must have the opportunity to grow up strong and healthy, nourished, and free of preventable diseases.”
World Vision Vice President of Water, Dr. Greg Allgood, announced World Vision’s commitment to provide basic WASH services in 800 rural healthcare facilities in 35 countries where they work, serving an estimated 7.2 million people at a cost of approximately $100 million, between 2019-2021: “All too often what should be a joyous occasion, the miracle of birth, instead becomes a death sentence for the baby and/or mother. This commitment will change that risk in the next few years for millions of people by ensuring adequate WASH services for the people in the least developed countries.”
White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) Deputy Executive Director, Kristy Kade, described ground-breaking results from its recently released, What Women Want campaign, which asked women what they wanted for quality maternal and reproductive health services. 1.2 million responses from 114 countries later, the top two responses were the desire for respectful and dignified healthcare, followed by the strong belief that a dignified experience must include healthcare facilities with running water, indoor toilets, clean beds and sheets. “If we cannot provide the most rudimentary needs, including water, sanitation and hygiene, we will never prevent women from dying during pregnancy and childbirth or create an environment where girls grow up empowered to understand and direct their own reproductive health,” Kade said. “If we want women and girls to visit health centers, if we want them to adhere to recommended advice, if we want better health outcomes, their agenda needs to become our agenda.”
Engineers Without Borders USA, Executive Director Cathy Leslie, P.E.: “This is truly a moment in history and we must not let this opportunity pass. This is a moment where we can solve a major humanitarian challenge.” EWB-USA committed to include healthcare facilities in all its community WASH projects; and to technically support healthcare facility efforts to improve WASH including wastewater treatment. “All too often, the pathogen-laden wastewater is not treated and, even worse, is directly discharged into rivers and streams. These are the same rivers and streams that provide drinking water for people downstream…It is heartbreaking that a place of healing is actually spreading disease.”
Government and multilateral organization representatives included:
U.S. State Department Director, Office of International Health and Biodefense,Jerry Mallory: “As the foreign policy lead on these issues we are pleased and committed to use our platform to elevate this issue on the global agenda. The Department of State remains committed, both in the global fora and critically at the country level, and we use and coordinate with our U.S. embassies overseas to keep this issue at the top of the agenda.”
USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Global Health, Dr. Monique Wubbenhorst: “We will support WASH in health facilities as a critical component of efforts to improve health and strengthen health systems, as well as prevent and control infections across Africa, Asia and Latin America through our missions’ activities in these countries. These activities are vital to our programs and it can help increase the quality of healthcare as well as strengthen health systems.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Global WASH Coordinator, Center for Global Health, Rick Gelting explained that CDC’s work provides “technical assistance, guidance and training to help partners scale-up what works, effective interventions. So, by doing this, we can help to make the work of our partners more efficient and effective. The guidelines that we develop are also used by organizations worldwide.”
World Bank Water Global Practice Senior Economist, Claire Chase: “The World Bank's Water Practice is financing WASH in health facilities in at least nine countries across five regions,” but recognizing the complexities, Chase added, this “will not be solved through greater resources alone. Through the Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership Multi-Donor Trust Fund, we are embarking on an analytical work program that looks at the relationship between WASH and healthcare facilities and quality of care, and seeks to better understand the institutional bottlenecks that prevent the sustainable delivery of WASH services in healthcare facilities.”
World Health Organization (WHO) Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health Unit Coordinator, Bruce Gordon said Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has committed to working with the whole WHO system and UN partners “to make sure that WASH in healthcare facilities is prioritized, is planned for effectively and appropriately, and is implemented.” Adding this appeal, “Please count on us as a partner. Please join us. Please make the effort and the commitments relentless and sustainable, and let’s make sure we have a vision that every healthcare facility has fully functional water. This effort to increase investments matters and we feel that your contributions will be a vital catalyst to correct this crisis.”
UNICEF Public Partnerships Manager Sean Snyder said, “Healthcare facilities must be places of healing, not harm.” UNICEF is aiming to reach at least 5,000 healthcare facilities between 2018 to 2021, with basic WASH through the implementation of its WASH programs; and, in collaboration with Emory University, has developed a workshop for WASH in healthcare facilities for hospital administrators, policy makers and managers.
The convening’s co-sponsors underscored the availability of WASH in healthcare as fundamental to global health:
Global Water 2020 Principal, David Douglas: “Tens of thousands of hospitals and clinics are operating less as centers of healing than centers of infection. This gathering is the latest confirmation that safe, sustainable, WASH in healthcare facilities at long last occupies the spotlight of global health attention. This unprecedented collection of commitments confirms that these organizations will never allow the issue of WASH in healthcare facilities to be ignored again."
Global Health Council Executive Director, Loyce Pace: “The impact of WASH on all other global health sectors cannot be overlooked. We cannot see improvements in maternal and child health and nutrition, as well as improving pandemic response and addressing antimicrobial resistance, if WASH services, particularly in clinics and hospitals, remain inadequate. This gathering presents the global health and WASH communities with an historic Call to Action to ensure quality health care services by recognizing the importance of WASH in all facets of our work.”
Watch the live stream of the event: https://vimeo.com/343197587