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Coordination of NTD and WASH activities for NTD control: lessons learned from Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya

22nd March 2021

WASH & NTD coordination is crucial in reducing the burden of NTDs

A handwashing station in Busiro landing site.

Globally, more than 1 billion people are affected by neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Besides mass drug administration (MDA), water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions are crucial for the control and elimination of many NTDs. Access to WASH is an important determinant for NTD infection.

To ensure that WASH interventions are targeted in the right areas where NTDs are endemic, coordination of activities between the WASH and NTD sectors is crucial.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued the first Global Strategy and action plan for WASH and NTDs, encouraging new ways to partner and invest across programmes in support of the WHO 2012 NTD roadmap goals. In 2021, the second strategy was published, which has four objectives:

  1. Increase awareness of the co-benefits of joint WASH and NTD action
  2. Use WASH data in NTD programmes and NTD data in WASH programmes
  3. Strengthen evidence and establish best practices on integrated approaches
  4. Jointly plan, deliver and evaluate programmes to enhance accountability, sustainability and equity of programme impact.

An important instrument to reach these objectives is the development of a national framework for the WASH and NTD sectors. Such a framework brings together stakeholders from both sectors and provides a structure for the joint planning, implementation and monitoring of activities.

Coordination of activities between the WASH and NTD sectors is often lacking in most NTD-endemic countries. In several countries, some coordination aspects have been put in place (such as technical working groups or mutual participation in each other’s meetings).

However, in practice, coordination and collaboration remains weak or irregular, and at times project-dependent. This is a missed opportunity as coordination can save resources, create synergies, and is an effective way towards NTD control.

Ascend’s support for WASH and NTD coordination

Ascend provides technical assistance and funding for the coordination of WASH and NTD activities.

Between October 2020 and January 2021, Ascend organised a WASH-NTD learning and exchange series with participants from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Zambia.

Teams investigate a broken hand pump in Busiro landing site, Uganda.

During five online workshops, participants from the WASH and NTD sector from different countries shared experiences in terms of setting a common vision, building partnerships, analysing the situation, planning and programme design, and monitoring and evaluation.

The workshops were facilitated by Ascend staff, members of the NTD NGO Network (NNN), WASH working group, and the WHO, and were based on ‘WASH and Health working together – A how-to guide for neglected tropical disease programmes’ developed by the NNN WASH working group and the WHO.

In addition, the Ascend program provides technical assistance and support to specific countries for the implementation of coordination activities, such as the development of a national framework.

Lessons from three countries

This learning brief explores experiences from three countries: Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya on successes and challenges from implementation of WASH NTD coordination.

The three countries were chosen as they are at different stage of implementation with Ethiopia being a frontrunner in this process.

Understanding common challenges and perceptions of added value will inform Ascend and other partners about the ways to strengthen WASH and NTD coordination for NTD control.

Read the full learnings brief: Coordination of NTD and WASH activities for NTD control: lessons learned from Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya