45 days to the start of the 2016 Grand to Grand Ultra…
Millions of people around the world lack safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Living in such conditions puts them at-risk from various diseases, including neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Improving access to safe water, managing human excreta, improving hygiene and enhancing targeted environmental management are therefore critical factors in improving the WASH situation and preventing the spread of diseases.
In August 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published “Water, sanitation and hygiene for accelerating and sustaining progress on neglected tropical diseases: A Global Strategy 2015-2020“. This Strategy aims to increase access to WASH and support efforts to combat NTDs.
This following ten facts highlights the importance of WASH for preventing and caring for NTDs:
More than 1 billion people in 149 countries suffer from NTDs. These diseases thrive in areas where there is lack of basic sanitation. About 2.4 billion people worldwide do not have adequate sanitation facilities, and 663 million do not have access to improved drinking water sources.
NTDs overload already stretched health systems in developing countries, and some of them can lead to catastrophic expenditures, reduce individual productivity and impact national economies.
Trachoma is a leading cause of preventable blindness. It is caused by a bacterial infection transmitted through contact with eye-seeking flies, fingers and fomites. Facial cleanliness and environmental improvement are primary prevention components of WHO’s SAFE strategy for trachoma elimination. Water is required for face washing to remove eye discharges.
Sanitation is a primary prevention strategy for soil-transmitted helminthiases. It prevents faecal pathogens such as intestinal worm eggs from contaminating the environment and infecting people through contaminated food, water, dirty hands and direct skin contact with the soil.
Improved sanitation and water management can greatly help to reduce proliferation of mosquitoes that transmit diseases to humans, such as lymphatic filariasis, dengue and chikungunya.
Improved sanitation can prevent faeces and urine which contain worm eggs from contaminating surface water. This can reduce the transmission of schistosomiasis. Since some schistosome species are also transmitted through animal urine or faeces, it is important to protect freshwater from animals and animal waste.
Healthcare facilities and households need clean water and hygienic conditions for wound management and surgeries required for the treatment of many NTDs.
Lymphatic filariasis and leprosy can lead to permanent disability making tasks such as carrying water long distances or accessing toilets difficult. People affected by these diseases need water to manage the symptoms of the disease, but often face stigma and can be excluded from accessing water and sanitation facilities, increasing their risk of poverty and severe illness. Clean water and soap are needed to maintain personal hygiene and dignity for these groups.
NTDs are most common in rural, vulnerable and marginalised populations where people do not have access to water and sanitation services. Progress or lack of progress on control or elimination of certain NTDs could be an indicator of whether WASH programmes are targeting the right communities and populations.
Closer collaboration between WASH and NTD programmes can greatly improve the lives of those affected by NTDs. Synergies can be created through collaborative planning, delivery and evaluation of programmes, strengthening and sharing of evidence, and using monitoring tools to improve the equity of health services and target the most vulnerable and underserved populations.
These facts clearly illustrate that access to improved WASH services is important pre-condition in managing and preventing the spread of NTDs.
I invite you to support my fundraising campaign and encourage others to do the same.
The countdown to the Grand to Grand Ultra continues…
I am dedicating my participation in the Grand to Grand Ultra to the work of the END Fund. Its mission is to control and eliminate the most prevalent neglected diseases among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people by 2020.
Together, we can END NTDs!