The Power of Partnerships: Increasing Investments in WASH for Poverty Reduction

 

President John Kufuor presents his keynote address

President John Kufuor presents his keynote address
Credit: Tetra Tech

This week, the former President of the Republic of Ghana and the Global Network’s Special Envoy for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), John A. Kufuor, joined partners from the U.S. government, NGO community and private sector to discuss ways to increase access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Because NTDs many are transmitted through dirty water, poor hygiene and sanitation, infinite opportunities exist for partners from the WASH and NTD communities to work together to create healthier and more prosperous communities – a point highlighted by President Kufuor during his remarks.

“I am confident that we can do much more to reach the most impoverished people around the globe by increasing WASH and health investments and coordinating our individual efforts. Sustainable and effective development rests on the future of integrated programs that take advantage of existing synergies, partnerships and shared resources.”

Further emphasizing the night’s theme of partnerships, the event was hosted by a wide range of organizations  including the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases/Sabin Vaccine Institute, InterAction, Tetra Tech, the Millennium Water Alliance, WaterAid and WASH Advocates. Attendees, hosts and speakers were able to chat, network and share their experiences before the featured presentations.

Participants from the event chat with President Kufuor

Global Network’s Managing Director, Neeraj Mistry, opened the event by encouraging the WASH and NTD communities to find cross-cutting points of convergence between these two sectors.

“In times of resource scarcity, we need to make the most of what we have,” he said.

Sam Worthington, President and CEO of InterAction, moderated the discussion. He also emphasized the opportunity to initiate WASH and NTD partnerships right here in D.C., and highlighted the role of InterAction as a platform for bringing people together.

Next, President John Kufuor delivered his keynote address, in which he spoke first-hand about the impact of poor WASH, Guinea worm and other NTDs on the people of Ghana.

“The pain from Guinea worm—like many other high-burden NTDs—would prevent Ghanaians from attending school, tending livestock or working in their fields for weeks at a time and in some cases, permanently.  It often forced children to fall behind in their studies and adults to lose their jobs. “

However, Ghana was able to eliminate Guinea worm after promoting awareness of the disease, training WASH and health workers, and expanding access to clean water in rural areas, Kufuor explained. In addition, support from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) enabled Ghana to improve clean water and health in the country.

In closing, Kufuor emphasized the need for collaboration with an African proverb: “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. It is only together that we can create a healthy future free of poverty. “

guests watch President Kufuor's speech

David Baxter of Tetra Tech’s Institute of Public Private Partnerships, Apollos Nwafor of WaterAid West Africa, Jonathan Nash, the Deputy Acting Vice President of the MCC and Christian Holmes, Global Water Coordinator from USAID all presented unique perspectives regarding the power of partnerships in achieving health goals.

David Baxter highlighted Tetra Tech and the private sector perspective on forging public-private partnerships to increase access to WASH. As David explained, Tetra Tech develops innovative WASH solutions in partnership with NGOs and governments. He noted that institutional capacity building is essential to sustaining gains made from WASH and NTD efforts.

Apollos Nwafor followed with a powerful declaration that everyone everywhere should have access to WASH by 2030, and partnerships will help us get there. He also stressed the importance of public-private partnerships that are pro-poor and inclusive to those who may be otherwise excluded or marginalized.

John Nash and Chris Holmes closed the event, providing a U.S. government perspective. John noted that the MCC works with nongovernmental partners on each and every project in which they invest. Chris Holmes echoed the importance of partnerships and reinforced the need to embrace the private sector in order to accelerate WASH and NTD programs.

The presence of President Kufuor and so many dedicated WASH and NTD advocates at Wednesday night’s event was very encouraging.  Growing partnerships between the NTD and WASH sectors and the public and private sectors are contributing to healthier communities across the world, and the Global Network looks forward to advancing these efforts to ensure that universal access to WASH also equates to a world without NTDs.

To view photos from the event, click here.

Rational Strategies with Heart – A Reflection on Uniting to Combat NTDs: A Conversation on Progress

 

This is a guest post from Angelica Belli*

NTDs eventWhat drives us forward is a combination of heart and head.” –Bill Gates, April 2nd

 As a Human Rights and Humanitarian Action Masters student specializing in global health and African studies, having the opportunity to listen first hand to some of the actors that are so often subject of my studies was a particularly exciting experience, which further enhanced my eagerness to explore the field of NTDs.

Sitting in a semicircle in front of me were Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tim Evans, Director of Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank, Jamie Cooper-John, Chair of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Dr Onésine Ndayishimiye, National Director of the Neglected Tropical Disease Control Program in Burundi and Christopher A. Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi.

Through their discussion, I was able to reflect upon the role of pharmaceutical companies in the effort to fight NTDs. While pharmaceutical companies need to make a profit to finance most of their activities, it is promising to see them acknowledging the need of those suffering from NTDs.

Companies like Sanofi are modifying their business plans to enable the disadvantaged to receive the NTD treatment they need at more affordable prices. Sanofi has made admirable efforts in this fight, committing itself for ten years to the provision of free drugs for neglected illnesses such as sleeping sickness.

In addition to Sanofi’s commitments, I was also pleased to hear that the French government reaffirmed their commitment to ending NTDs.  I hope that the French government will help people across the developing world gain access to treatments donated by Sanofi and other pharmaceutical companies.

Overall, the event was quite general, and I would have appreciated a deeper focus on the challenges faced rather than mainly on the achieved objectives. It was through the Q&A that some thought-provoking obstacles were raised.

Firstly, money is not the sole requisite. As Mr. Viehbacher and Mr. Gates pointed out, the main issue is no longer the availability of medicines, but access to patients. People in remote areas of the developing world are often not easily reachable due to poor infrastructure and weak health systems. It will be interesting to see what solutions are found to tackle this issue.

Secondly, even though the generosity of both public and private actors has led to improved health conditions for thousands, it raises the question as to whether donations are sustainable and if so, for how long. Local governments will have to step in eventually, empowering their people and making decent health care accessible. How these major global health actors will contribute to this necessary transformation is yet to be seen.

As long as there is a bit of heart complementing rational strategies, the empowerment of the most marginalized communities can be a reasonable expectation. As a global health student, I hope this will soon be the case.

To get involved in the fight against NTDs, visit www.end7.org.

 *Angelica Belli, Italian-British, grew up in Italy and attended university in the UK, graduating from Warwick University in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 2013; current Human Rights and Humanitarian Action Master student at Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs, with concentrations in Global Health and African Studies.

World Health Workers Week: Honoring the NTD Fighters

 

Susan Matthews educating her community in Boroma Village in Sierra Leone about schistosomiasis

Susan Matthews educating her community in Boroma Village in Sierra Leone about schistosomiasis

Sierra Leone’s Kono district is home to some of the highest rates of schistosomiasis in the country. Nearly 2 million people here are infected by this painful and sometimes-deadly neglected tropical disease (NTD).

Susan Matthews, a community health worker from Boroma village in Kono District, is on a mission to fight schistosomiasis in her community. We’re highlighting the important impact of her work, and the work of others like her, this World Health Workers Week. Health workers like Susan help sustain quality health care in rural communities by both treating and educating their communities about effective ways to prevent various diseases, including NTDs.

Susan’s work has an immense impact on people like Sahr Gando, a miner in Kono district. Sahr Gando became infected with schistosomiasis after spending hours a day mining for diamonds in infested waters. But through Mass Drug Administration (MDA), Susan is able to distribute medications to Sahr Gando and the rest of the community.  After receiving medication, those treated will be freed from NTDs for one year.

But Susan’s work doesn’t stop there.  Together with other health workers, Susan educates the community about the medication and how to prevent getting the disease.

“If you just come and drop the drugs, it will not be effective,” says Susan. “So we have to help educate them so that they know about the drug and the disease. We have to keep talking, talking, talking, talking, and then they will accept.”

Thanks to committed health workers like Susan, rural communities can have access to medication and also acquire knowledge about schistosomiasis prevention.

Luckily, people like Susan exist around the world.  This February, we were fortunate enough to meet several other dedicated health workers in India.

Health Workers at Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) are helping those with lymphatic filariasis (LF) in Orissa, India. LF is a painful and disfiguring NTD that impacts more than 20 million people in the country. The devoted health workers at CASA help with disease management for individuals that have LF by cleansing and removing bacteria from their legs. END7’s celebrity ambassador, Abhishek Bachchan, has also worked with health workers in Orissa, India in an effort to help those that suffer from LF.

Health workers are uniquely positioned to have an incredible impact on health outcomes around the world because they understand the needs of their communities and they also have the trust of community members. Health workers also build individual and community capacity by increasing health knowledge among communities and promoting community empowerment.

We’d like to thank Susan Matthews, the health workers in Orissa, India, and all health workers across the globe that continue to fight NTDs in their communities.

Watch and learn more about the great and essential work that Susan Matthews is doing in Sierre Leone here.

World Health Day: The neglected diseases that plague 1 in 6

WHDToday is World Health Day, and the global community is calling attention to the immense harm caused by diseases spread by  mosquitoes, sand flies and snails — also referred to as vector-borne diseases.

As part of this effort, Global Network managing director, Neeraj Mistry, highlighted the debilitating effect of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in a CNN editorial.

“Human history is closely linked to diseases carried by vectors such as the sand flies at the heart of blinding and disfiguring diseases referenced during biblical times, fleas responsible for bubonic plague in Medieval Europe, and the mosquitoes that carry one of today’s most well-known diseases, malaria.

What most people don’t know, however, is that there are several other vector-borne diseases that have a staggering impact on the world’s poorest people. Called neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, this group of parasitic and bacterial infections plagues one in six people worldwide, including more than 500 million children.”

To read the full editorial, click here. You can spread the word on Twitter by using the hashtags #WorldHealthDay and #JustOneBite.