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!
September 4th, 2013
Sanjay 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.