Water and NTDs - how can we actually come together to be successful?

03 Sep 2015 
by Virginia Sarah
| ICTC Chair
Virginia Sarah, ICTC Chair

As we find ourselves at the cusp of a new global development agenda, discussion of the imminent Sustainable Development Goals has been at the top of the development agenda so it was no surprise that it also lay at the centre of this year's Stockholm World Water Week conference, where we convened a joint session with WHO on WASH and NTDs. With all the talk of 'leaving no one behind' and the increased focus on the poorest and most vulnerable, this was an apt time for us to promote WASH/NTD linkages at the conference. The SDGs provide a new impetus for collaboration as both NTDs and WASH actors are concerned with improving health, alleviating poverty, and eliminating inequalities.

For my first visit to Stockholm World Water Week, the conference was celebrating its 25th anniversary in the centre of town, which meant that I got to enjoy the elegant surroundings of the Stockholm City Centre Conference in the heart of this watery and relaxed city during a sunny late-August week.

Our main focus for the week was the session Tackling inequalities together, on the fourth day of the conference; which was co-convened by ICTC, WHO, Sightsavers, The Fred Hollows Foundation and WaterAid. The focus of the session was around the launch of WHO's groundbreaking new strategy on WASH and NTDs. ICTC WASH practice working group Co-Chairs, Yael and Geordie, presented on 'Links between WASH and NTDs' and 'Supporting collaboration on WASH and NTDs – sharing common indicators' respectively and Dr Waltaji Kutane, from WHO Ethiopia, shared the great progress taking place in Ethiopia, on trachoma as well as NTDs more generally.

We had lots of great discussion and questions from the audience. Interest in collaboration was clear and so were the challenges but concrete examples exist. During the discussion, the Nigerian Minister of Health said that health and WASH have to be integrated to break transmission of disease and asked, "how do we link these groups together?" as current approaches are disjointed.

Yael's response? Policy and money. Policy and money are what is needed to strategically bring people together. Yael illustrated this point with the example of WHO's SAFE strategy for trachoma and the ICTC partnership initiatives in which donors are funding full SAFE intervention and not just treatment. The new WHO strategy includes this and other examples to ensure that the strategy is grounded in practical action.

The conference was also a great opportunity to unveil a sneak preview of the ICTC F&E toolkit, All you need for F&E, and to meet a diverse crowd from the sector.

With all these great tools at our disposal, we are now much better than ever before placed to put collaboration into practice. This is just the starting point. As Dr Wataji so eloquently put it in his presentation, let's act now, act together and act differently to make collaboration, coordination and partnership tangible!

Scroll down for some live tweetage from the event: