Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Join up, Scale up, Save lives

Hope Randall works for PATH, one of the six organisations, including End Water Poverty, who have co-authored a new report which shows how linking nutrition, health, education and water and sanitation delivers better results for the world's poorest communities. Her work focuses on their defeatDD initiative

Call it what you will: joining up or combining interventions, integration or disaggregation. Whatever you call it, it is essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and to alleviating poverty and disease. We can’t agree more with Antonio Monteiro, former President of Cape Verde and recently appointed Nutrition Advocate for West Africa, that integration makes good common and fiscal sense , both of which are rightly held in high esteem by citizens who hold their governments accountable for effective programming. Most importantly, it saves lives.

Despite the fact that this concept seemed obvious to most of us, we – and our partners – noticed a troublesome gap in the way we communicated this message: we lacked a compilation of practical examples to serve as evidence that integration is successful. Even more practically, we lacked a resource that answered the question, “What does integration look like in the field?” This gap came up repeatedly, and it was during some meetings last year with our partners across the pond that we were inspired to work together to try to fill the gap. Thus, the seeds were planted for what would become our new report, Join up, Scale up: How integration can defeat poverty and disease.

The report illustrates successful models of integration on both the interventions level and the government level. Just as disease and poverty solutions need to be “joined up” to realize the greatest impact, governments must work with civil society organizations and community leaders to “scale up” these successes. The recommendations in the report provide a road map for donors and policymakers to implement integrated programs.

One case study in the report features PATH’s diarrhoeal disease control program in Kenya. The pilot program integrated treatment interventions, like oral rehydration therapy (ORT) corners, with preventive measures, like hygiene education and safe drinking water. The innovative approach proved successful and influenced Kenya’s Ministry of Health to launch official policy guidelines on the prevention and treatment of diarrheal disease. Work is now being done on the local level to continue to raise awareness of the integration approach. Florence Weke-sa, deputy mayor of Kimilili in Western Kenya, is thrilled with the program’s work there, saying, “Do not do this work in silence. Work with local leaders. Shout about it. Make a loud noise.”

These children at the ORT corner at Kakamega Hospital in Kenya will be dismissed in a matter of hours.

In just a few weeks, we’re going to make a loud noise at the UNC Water and Health Conference. Alfred Ochola, Primary health coordinator for PATH’s diarrheal disease control program in Kenya’s Western Province, will bring his on-the-ground perspective of the field work to the workshop, “Collaborating for WaSH and Health: Case Studies for Cost-Effective and Integrated Promotion.” We hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it, you can follow us at @defeatDD for the latest updates from the event.

We’re grateful for the opportunity to join voices with our great partners on this project: Action Against Hunger, Action for Global Health, End Water Poverty, Tearfund, and WaterAid. And we look forward to working with you, too, to send the message to donors and governments: join up, scale up, and save lives!

Read the report here.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Famine and drought: Time to act!

Alexandra Chitty is a volunteer at End Water Poverty, and has written the piece below about the current crisis in the Horn of Africa, and government responsibility in preventing such crises. Do provide comments and questions for her!

Watching the current drought unfold in the Horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia – that has so far left thousands dead and more than 12 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, we are forced to question how this devastating situation has occurred once again. Following the 1984 Ethiopian famine, the world promised to prevent future crises from occurring.

However, despite organisations such as HelpAge and Oxfam warning of an impending drought as far back as the end of 2010, on 20th July 2011 the United Nations declared a famine in southern Somalia.

Why was this famine not prevented? What can be done to mitigate some of the effects of drought and to avoid future crises from taking place?
Today we live in a world where, as a result of climate change, unpredictable rains and extreme weather conditions are commonplace. Access to water is becoming increasingly scarce, and a rising global population is placing even greater demands on this limited resource. As the drought in the Horn of Africa starkly demonstrates, water scarcity in semi-arid areas – in this instance in the form of two consecutive failed rainy seasons – can leave thousands food insecure and often results in internally displaced populations and the heightened risk of diseases that accompany them.

In 2010 the United Nations declared access to clean water a fundamental human right. National governments are therefore responsible for putting into place effective safety nets to ensure that water provision reaches all and that droughts and famines are avoided. In spite of governments having committed to halving the proportion of people without access to water by 2015 as part of the Millennium Development Goals, and numerous developing countries – including Ethiopia and Kenya – having signed up to the Sanitation and Water for All initiative, investment in infrastructure projects has thus far clearly been insufficient. Political will for tackling the water crisis is not sufficient and water is, without doubt, not high enough on the global political radar.

Lynn Johnson, National Geographic

Solutions are attainable! Planning is needed.
Governments must learn from this tragedy and must prioritise investment in long-term solutions to water shortages. Disaster risk reduction strategies such as early warning systems must be implemented, innovative water capture and storage methods must be explored, and budgetary commitments must be delivered upon.

Improving access to water will allow drought-vulnerable populations to become more resilient in terms of food security and sanitation; they will no longer be forced to sell their livestock immediately nor to move away from their homes in search of food and water, thereby reducing their chances of contracting diseases that are often present in camps. Affected populations and civil society organisations should lead demands for better water provision to prevent future crises and as a means of reasserting their human right to water.

One way End Water Poverty partners and members can participate in such calls is through participating in campaigns including Crisis Talks and the World Walks for Water and Sanitation 2012. These events will raise the political profile of the water crisis and will encourage key decision makers to attend the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting that is taking place in Washington, April 2012 and to deliver firm actions.

As African governments and institutions recently emphasised, we must unite and speak with one voice to prevent such disasters recurring.