Posts Tagged John Kufuor

Why You Shouldn’t Take Your Toilet for Granted on World Toilet Day

November 19th, 2013

Photo by Flickr user SuSanA Secretariat

Photo by Flickr user SuSanA Secretariat

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’ve used a toilet recently. It’s also likely you’ve never really considered how fortunate you are to have access to that toilet. Could you imagine what it would be like to leave your house in the middle of the night to relieve yourself outside rather than inside the safety and privacy of a clean bathroom stall?

Today is World Toilet Day and we’re recognizing the 2.5 billion people around the world who do not have access to a toilet (that’s about 1/3 of the world’s population!). The magnitude of this problem is significant.  Without a toilet, people are forced to defecate outside – an act that compromises a person’s dignity, privacy and safety, and leaves billions susceptible to neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

Schistosomiasis and intestinal worm infections such as roundworm, hookworm and whipworm are easily spread in communities that do not have access to toilets or sanitation facilities. Schistosomiasis spreads when infected people urinate or defecate close to a water source, contaminating it with the larvae of the parasite. Without proper infrastructure (toilets and city utilities) more than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas and promoting the spread of NTDs.

Simply walking barefoot around this polluted and contaminated water leaves people exposed to NTDs. As a result, people can be continually re-infected as they work, play, bathe or eat. Children especially have a high risk of contracting these diseases because they often play barefoot outside and put their hands in their mouths without washing them.

According to the World Health Organization, improving water, sanitation and hygiene can reduce trachoma by 27 percent, and improved sanitation could reduce schistosomiasis by as much as 77 percent.

By combining NTD treatment, hygiene education and creative solutions for the 2.5 billion people without access to toilets, we can tackle this problem. Important work is being done by several partner organizations to promote better water, sanitation and hygiene worldwide. The Global Network is also happy to work with former president of Ghana John A. Kufuor to promote long term NTD solutions by integrating mass drug administration with programs for water, sanitation and hygiene – a message the former president drove home at this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm, sweeden.

To learn more about the links between clean water, sanitation and NTDs, watch our quick video here

NTDs are on a Roll in Sweden

September 12th, 2013

Former President of Ghana John Kufuor speaks at World Water Week. (Photo by Worldwaterweek)

Former President of Ghana John Kufuor speaks at World Water Week. (Photo by Worldwaterweek)

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!

A Great African Statesman and One of the Nicest People You Could Ever Meet

September 4th, 2013

Exray Foto Sanjay 1Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of WASH, UNICEF talks about H.E. John Kufuor’s visit to World Water Week in Stockholm

It is a great honour to be at World Water Week in Stockholm with HE John Kufuor, especially as he was President during my time in Ghana between 2005 and 2008.  Not only is he a great African statesman, but he is one of nicest people you could ever meet.  The President is Chair of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) and Special Envoy to the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, and these two initiatives have particular resonance at this, the world’s foremost annual gathering of water and sanitation experts.  The Global Network for NTDs seeks to bring attention to a group of diseases that continue to cause immense pain and suffering in developing countries, most of which can only be eliminated if there are improvements to sanitation and water.  And the Sanitation and Water for All partnership was created to increase the political will around making those improvements, and to help countries achieve better use of their resources.

This speaks strongly to the mission of UNICEF, and our dedication to protecting the rights of children and helping them to achieve their full potential.  Many of the neglected tropical diseases take a terrible toll on the lives of children.  Trachoma, for instance, causes blindness, and intestinal worms sap children’s strength, leaving them listless, poorly nourished and unable to learn at school.  It is estimated that almost half of the primary school-age children in developing counties carry intestinal worms – an incredible burden of ill-health and lost opportunity.  Better sanitation, safe water and good hygiene practices can help eliminate or control many neglected tropical diseases, and other equally serious health problems such as diarrhoeal disease.

H.E. Kufuor is challenging governments to make water, sanitation, hygiene and the elimination of the diseases they cause a top political priority.  The Sanitation and Water for All partnership will hold its third biennial meeting in 2014, and countries will report to each other on the progress they have made against the commitments they have previously made towards achieving universal access to water and sanitation.  I feel there is cause for optimism that these essential foundations to children’s health and well-being are gaining the highest attention, and that diseases such as trachoma and worms may soon be a part of history.