Supporting healthy lives through the Global Sanitation Fund

Date: 21st April 2017

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WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) supports partners to address the global sanitation and hygiene crisis, so that everyone can enjoy healthy and productive lives.

While maintaining its focus on fostering sanitation and hygiene movements to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2, the GSF is linked to other SDGs, including SDG 3 focused on good health and well-being.

The GSF supports improved and sustained health in a number of ways. This includes supporting communities to end open defecation, access and use improved toilets and handwashing facilities, and increase the number of health centres and other public spaces with improved sanitation facilities.

Photo: Adequate, appropriate and sustainable sanitation and hygiene – including handwashing – is key to ensuring healthy lives for all. Since its launch, the GSF has enabled 20 million people to access handwashing facilities. Credit: WaterAid Cambodia

The impact of sanitation and hygiene on health

Today, approximately 2.4 billion people live without access to adequate sanitation and hygiene, including nearly one billion people practicing open defecation (read more). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 800,000 people in low- and middle-income countries die as a result of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) each year. Moreover, open defecation and poor sanitation and hygiene are linked to the transmission of various diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, polio and diarrhoea, the latter of which is among the leading causes of death worldwide. Poor WASH also contributes to malnutrition and has a detrimental effect on child growth and development (read more).

Ending open defecation and improving sanitation and hygiene can prevent a significant amount of diseases, and good hygiene practices are essential for reducing maternal and neonatal mortality rates. For every dollar invested in WASH, there is a $4.3 return in lower healthcare costs for individuals and societies around the world (read more).

Promoting healthy lives across GSF-supported countries

Across all 13 GSF-supported country programmes, The Fund’s people-centred approach engages tens of thousands of communities, enabling people to make informed decisions about their sanitation and hygiene behaviour that can positively impact their health. Programmes are also directly managed by or work closely with health-related entities, including ministries, local governments, health centres and NGOs.

Uganda: The programme is managed by the Ministry of Health and is the largest sanitation programme in the country. Capitalizing on local government structures enables the programme to quickly reach the grassroots. District Health Offices take the lead in implementing programme activities and monitoring results, with health extension workers, based in county and sub-county health facilities, rolling out Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) activities. At the village level, local health extension staff work closely with Village Health Team volunteers. In 2015, an analysis of sanitation-related disease trends showed a downward trend in dysentery and intestinal worms across 11 supported districts, and no cholera outbreaks were registered in Moyo District.

Ethiopia: The Ministry of Health manages the programme, and government health offices at the regional and woreda (district) level serve as implementing partners. The programme is aligned with the 2015-2020 Health Sector Transformation Plan, the first phase of Ethiopia’s 20-year strategy to achieve universal health coverage. The programme’s activities are delivered through Ministry of Health’s Health Extension Program, which provides a package of health services to communities. As part of this package, implementing partners facilitate CLTS and train village-based Health Extension Workers in the approach. The Health Extension Workers then train grassroots women leaders who make up the ‘Health Development Army’. The GSF-supported programme therefore strengthens the overall delivery of health services, going beyond sanitation and hygiene.

Cambodia: The programme integrates WASH and nutrition to fight stunting and malnutrition, through partnerships with the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program, UNICEF, WaterAid, USAID and SNV. The programme also commissioned an ongoing study on WASH and nutrition barriers and solutions, and works closely with WSSCC’s National Coordinator around these themes.

Togo: UNICEF manages the programme, which is chaired by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection. The programme has been designed in such a way that UNICEF gradually hands over management responsibilities to the Ministry of Health and Social Protection until full ownership is achieved under the ministry. UNICEF and the Government are working to improve the capacity of the ministry to plan, implement and monitor WASH programmes.

Kenya: Managed by Amref Health Africa in Kenya, the programme is chaired by the Ministry of Health. The programme aims to reduce disease burden resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene, while helping to improve health outcomes in 11 counties in the country.  A key objective is to empower people to fully embrace the links between sanitation and health, hygiene and human dignity, so that they live in clean and healthy environments with adequate and appropriate sanitation facilities. The programme also engages closely with public health institutions and stakeholders, through coordination mechanisms and events such as the Second National Sanitation Conference.


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