UN health agency unveils sanitation and hygiene plan towards eradicating tropical diseases by 2020

Accessing safe and clean water in Woukpokpoe village, Benin. Photo: World Bank/Arne Hoel

27 August 2015 – The World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that it is strengthening water, sanitation and hygiene services to accelerate progress in eliminating and eradicating neglected tropical diseases by 2020 that affect more than 1 billion of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.

“Millions suffer from devastating WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] – related tropical diseases – such as soil-transmitted helminthiasis, guinea-worm disease, trachoma and schistosomiasis – all of which affect mainly children” said Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

“Solutions exist, such as access to safe water, managing human excreta, improving hygiene, and enhancing targeted environmental management. Such improvements not only lead to improved health, but also reduce poverty,” Dr. Neira said in the WHO announcement.

WHO outlined a global plan to better integrate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services with four other public health interventions to accelerate progress in eliminating and eradicating neglected tropical diseases by 2020.

“Targeted water and sanitation interventions are expected to bolster ongoing efforts in tackling 16 out of the 17 neglected tropical diseases, which affect more than 1 billion of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations,” according to WHO.

WHO also said that in 2015 more than 660 million people did not have access to improved water sources, almost 2.5 billion people lacked access to improved sanitation and more than 500,000 million lives are lost each year as a result of neglected tropical diseases.

Besides advocating for basic water, sanitation and hygiene, WHO uses four other key interventions in overcoming the global burden of the neglected tropical diseases. The four strategies are: preventive chemotherapy, innovative and intensified disease management, vector control and veterinary public health services.

The five-year agenda is in line with a World Health Assembly resolution, which calls for the formulation of a new, integrated WHO strategy including a specific focus on promotion of sanitation and hygiene behaviour.


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