WaterAid international has committed to discuss with governments on ways to have prices of water reduced in order to improve access to water, sanitation, hygiene services in the health sector in order to beat COVID19 and future pandemics.
This commitment was made at the ongoing Rwanda Global Healthcare Summit in Kigali, bringing together virtually and physically at least 500 delegates consisting of health ministers, government representatives, health care practitioners and development partners.
The Global Healthcare Summit held between November 18-20, 2021 was hosted by the Rwandan Ministry of Health, Water Aid global and facilitated by Be Still Investments.
The meeting aims to spark a global conversation on today’s state of healthcare and to raise awareness on health issues and multi-sector dimensions but also directly engage government and private sector to invest in the Hygiene for Health campaign which was launched in Kigali on November 19, 2021.
The summit also sets precedence on pandemic preparedness and response as evidence shows that this is unachievable without addressing most fundamental pillars of public health-water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
The overall goal of the campaign is to accelerate action and progress towards everyone’s access to hygiene services by catalysing changes in the attitudes, policies and practice of country and donor governments, global institutions, and private sector on hand hygiene and WASH in health center facilities (HCFs) as key enablers for improved health outcomes.
The campaign will drive progress towards increased and sustained prioritisation of, and investment in water, sanitation and hygiene for public health and resilience through the narrative framing of ‘hygiene for health’.
The campaign focuses on WASH in health care facilities and hand hygiene for all in all settings on the backdrop that hygiene is protection for communities, health workers and patients and without it, countries cannot defeat COVID19 or future health crises- which caught most nations unprepared.
Olutayo Bankole-Bolawole, WaterAid East Africa Regional Director, said WaterAid looks forward to the major global health conference and welcomes the fact that water, sanitation and hygiene are clearly recognized as central to the main issues on the agenda.
“At the Global Healthcare Summit, WaterAid shared experiences in integrating WASH in health care facilities, generate discussions on inclusive pandemic response with partners and launch the Hygiene for Health Campaign,” Bankole-Bolawole said.
Most countries that presented their country situation on water, sanitation and hygiene showed gaps in the area of access to clean water despite the fact that there has been some country initiatives to increase water sources.
Globally, United Nations figures indicate that over a half of the global population- about 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation, and in Africa ofthe 783 million people who are without access to clean water, 40% live in sub-Saharan Africa.
In Rwanda, the government has invested in increasing water sources (coverage) which stands at 83%.
However access remains a major challenge as many communities have to fetch water from ponds and tap in on rain water, a reality that is partly caused by high water prices.
To this effect, Water Aid Country Director Maurice Kwizera said that their agenda to address this concern will be to table the matter to government of Rwanda and engage the private sector to invest in opportunities such as water and hygiene technology to make this possible.
“You know very well that government has done a good job in increasing sources of water through investing in new plants but we (Water Aid) think that more investment in infrastructure and technology can improve access to water which is one of the biggest gaps,” Kwizera said.
Kwizera also revealed that Water Aid Rwanda will talk government to find a way of reducing water prices so as to increase access of clean and consistent tap water however investing in water technology and innovation will be an area where they will engage the private sector.
In the meantime WaterAid Rwanda committed to soliciting funding to back the existing government driven initiatives so as to enable the country attain the 100% access to clean water underlined in the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) targets by 2024.
Water Aid has supplied safe water to more than 172,483 people; educated 221,523 about sanitation, and trained 959,724 people in hygiene behavior change.