The neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, affect more than a billion people worldwide. These diseases are entirely preventable, and WASH is essential to stopping them. Now, a new set of tools — country-specific manuals, an e-course, and a website — has been created to help increase the impact of WASH interventions for the control of NTDs.
The NTDs have been called ‘neglected’ because they have generally received less attention and funding than diseases such as HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria. And yet, NTDs are responsible for a huge amount of pain and suffering. People with NTDs experience a range of debilitating physical, cognitive, and social effects and the diseases generate enormous global losses in educational and economic achievement. The word ‘neglected’ also describes the populations most affected by NTDs — they are the poorest communities in the world, many of them living in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
The work of the WASH sector has been critical in stopping the spread of diseases such as soil-transmitted helminths (also known as intestinal worms), trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis and Guinea worm. However, as Stephanie Ogden, former WASH/NTD coordinator for the Task Force for Global Health, notes in a post for this blog in 2012, “WASH has had an underfunded and under-applauded role in ongoing NTD control strategies. A coordinated, targeted approach between the WASH and health communities is needed…real mechanisms for coordination, measurement, and monitoring must be established and supported from both sides of the sector divide.”
To help develop and strengthen these mechanisms, and to help bridge the divide between the WASH and NTD sectors, a new set of tools has been developed. These tools, comprised of a manual, e-course and dedicated website, are the result of a collaborative effort by Children Without Worms, the International Trachoma Initiative, Emory University’s Center for Global Safe Water, CARE, WaterAid and WASH Advocates, with support from the SightSavers Innovation fund.
“WASH and the Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Manual for WASH Implementers” (available at www.washntds.org) is a practical guide for WASH practitioners working to implement, support, and sustain WASH interventions at the country level. The manual provides WASH-implementing organizations with information on targeting interventions to NTD-endemic communities; engaging in and promoting collaborative monitoring for NTD-specific health outcomes; and communicating the impact of WASH on NTDs for the purposes of advocacy and policy change. Country-specific manuals (70 different versions will be made available by April 2014), will enable WASH implementers to easily access the most relevant information, statistics, and maps about NTDs that occur in their countries of practice.
As a complement to the manual, experts from the Task Force for Global Health, Emory University’s Center for Global Safe Water, WaterAid, Improve International, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine developed and piloted an e-course on WASH and the NTDs in late 2013. Participants from 26 WASH-related organizations working in 20 countries participated in the pilot version of the course. More WASH practitioners will have the opportunity to take the e-course and receive a certificate of completion from Emory University when the self-facilitated e-course is launched on www.washntds.org by April 2014.
The momentum behind WASH and the NTDs has only continued to grow since December 2012 when WASH and NTD experts met at a two-day WASH/NTD roundtable. At that roundtable, a common vision was developed for both sectors to strive towards — “Disease-free communities that have adequate and equitable access to water and sanitation, and that practice good hygiene.” That vision can only be achieved through greater collaboration between the WASH and NTD sectors. The WASH/NTD toolkit can strengthen that collaboration and bring us closer to achieving our vision of a world free of disease and poverty.
For more information about WASH and the NTDs, and to download “WASH and the Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Manual for WASH Implementers,” visit www.washntds.org.