Last week, as the global trachoma-community gathered in Geneva for GET2020 (the WHO-led international Alliance for Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020) there was a significant, and now permanent, addition to the agenda – WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). As we move closer to the 2020 elimination goal for this blinding NTD, it was exciting to see water, sanitation and hygiene being given due importance, with its own roundtable session.
So why was this one session such an important milestone? Trachoma is spread where poverty and poor sanitary conditions persist. Despite the fact that two of the four elements of the WHO endorsed SAFE strategy to control and eliminate blinding trachoma (Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements) rely on successful implementation of WASH interventions, the implementation of the F and E components of SAFE is frequently under-prioritised in planning and implementation of trachoma programmes.
At GET2020 we saw water, sanitation and hygiene come up again and again in all country presentations. Face washing and environmental improvements are consistently the most challenging action areas within the SAFE strategy implementation. Although one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focuses on improving access to clean water and sanitation, with less than three years to go until the MDG deadline there are currently 2.5 billion people with no access to improved sanitation. » Read more: SAFEly WASHing away blinding trachoma