Friday, March 22, 2019

WHO stresses access for all to clean water to eliminate tropical diseases

Access for all to clean and safe water is fundamental to controlling and eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTD) from across the South-East Asia Region, according to a
press release issued by the New Delhi-based World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for South-East Asia, coinciding with the World Water Day.
WHO regional director for South-East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said in the release that alongside other interventions, access to clean and safe water was a powerful means to ensure all communities could combat and control NTDs and that in partnership with health authorities they could sustain their achievements and accelerate progress.
According to the Region’s Flagship Priorities, recent progress against NTDs has been substantial. In 2015 India was declared yaws-free. In 2016 Maldives and Sri Lanka eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem. Bangladesh, India and Nepal have meanwhile made substantial gains against visceral leishmaniasis, while in 2018 Nepal was validated to have eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, with the WHO SAFE strategy and its emphasis on access to clean water crucial to its success.
"Further progress is needed," she said, adding that the most recent figures show that the region is the world’s second most affected by NTDs, with remote and hard-to-reach communities bearing the bulk of the burden. "It is no coincidence that these are the very same communities that are most disadvantaged when it comes to accessing clean and safe water, sanitation and hygiene."
As WHO’s recently released toolkit – ‘WASH and health working together: A ‘how-to’ guide for Neglected Tropical Disease programmes’ – outlines, WASH must be core to any NTD programme. National NTD programmes region-wide should work with partners and across sectors to target affected populations and make full use of the tool, the release reads.
Where communities lack access to clean and safe water, for example, sustainable solutions must be found. That could mean addressing stigma-based exclusion from improved drinking water sources or ensuring health care facilities and schools – particularly in rural areas – have improved water and hygiene services available, Dr Khetrapal Singh suggested.  It could also mean ensuring access to handwashing facilities where appropriate, and that household waste is safely disposed of to prevent the transmission of diseases such as schistosomiasis and soil transmitted helminthiases.
"Ongoing information on the effectiveness of policies is crucial to adapting interventions and ensuring the inattention that defines NTDs and exposes whole communities to stigma and marginalisation is overcome," she said.

No comments: