What do you call a room full of the world’s leading water and toilet specialists? A Charmin group!
Last week, His Excellency John Kufuor, President of Ghana (2001-2009), travelled to Sweden to meet with such a group at the Stockholm International Water Institute’s (SIWI) World Water Week, an annual week-long conference that has been the focal point for the globe’s water issues since 1991. As the Global Network’s Special Envoy for NTDs and Chair of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), President Kufuor represented the dual (and closely connected) issues of NTDs and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
As I highlighted last week, poor communities typically lack access to the essential protective measures of clean water, sanitation facilities and soap for good hygiene, leaving them at much higher risk of coming into contact with NTDs or the insects that spread them. As a result, NTDs continue to keep communities poor and without sufficient access to clean water and sanitation.
For this reason, the Global Network was thrilled to join President Kufuor as he worked to increase awareness about the vital links between NTDs and WASH. In partnership with the Global Network and SWA, he encouraged strong political will to support NTD and WASH initiatives and called for heightened collaboration between the two communities. President Kufuor acted as a powerful voice for NTDs and WASH during his remarks at the Stockholm World Water Prize Seminar, the Africa Day ministerial session, and at several other events throughout the week, and was also praised in the media for his efforts to help the world’s poorest communities.
In his remarks at the Stockholm World Water Prize Seminar, which celebrated Dr. Peter Morgan as the 2013 Water Prize Laureate, President Kufuor stated, “I am confident that improving access to clean water and sanitation and fighting diseases, such as roundworm, hookworm and snail fever, are among the best investments governments can make.”
Beyond his official duties at the conference itself, President Kufuor conducted several high level meetings with representatives from the Swedish and French governments to discuss how they can leverage their investments in water initiatives to simultaneously tackle NTDs.
The Global Network thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with SWA at World Water Week and hopes that this initial partnership will soon lead to substantial improvements for the 1.4 billion people who have NTDs and the astounding 2.5 billion people who lack access to basic sanitation.
It was another busy week for the Global Network but there is still much more work to do; good thing we are not pooped out yet!