Management Sciences for Health Joins Global Health Community to Ensure Access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in all Health Facilities

More than $120 million in commitments announced at historic convening for global health

Arlington, VA—Last week, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) joined philanthropies, nongovernmental organizations, US government agencies, financial institutions, corporations, universities, Nobel laureate Dr. James Cobey, Colombia’s First Lady and Goodwill Ambassador for SDG 17 María Juliana Ruiz, and the UN Secretary-General to make global health history—to ensure that every person, wherever they live, will receive health care at a hospital or health clinic where sustainable water, soap, and toilets are available. Nearly 80 commitments to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in health care facilities were publicly announced at a gathering in Washington, DC, on June 19, 2019. (Summary of each commitment available here.) The commitments follow a WASH declaration made at the 72nd World Health Assembly in May 2019.

Forty-five percent of health care facilities in the world’s least developed countries lack basic water services, according to the first-ever global baseline report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, released in April 2019. Every year, 17 million women in these countries give birth in facilities without adequate WASH. This report, drawing on data from more than 560,000 health care facilities in 125 countries, found that globally some two billion people use health care facilities without basic water services, and 1.5 billion use facilities without sanitation.

MSH has committed to increase awareness and visibility of the importance of WASH messaging and has pledged to ensure that WASH is accurately and adequately represented in discussions pertaining to global health security, including antimicrobial resistance. MSH will work with targeted countries to ensure that WASH is incorporated into health facilities during the next year. Through the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium—of which MSH is Emeritus Chair—MSH will ensure that these messages are also raised to the level of the Global Health Security Agenda Steering Group level.

“As a key element of infection control, WASH is critical for epidemic prevention,” said Ashley Arabasadi, MSH’s health security policy adviser. “Take a severe influenza event, for example. In regions where people lack access to vaccines and other essential medicines, personal hygiene, including hand washing and social distancing, may be the only methods available to prevent flu from spreading.”

Funding commitments announced on June 19 totaled more than $120 million, with millions more in technical assistance, research, evaluation, training, long-term maintenance strategies, and advocacy. Thousands of health care facilities stand to benefit across some 50 countries throughout Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the event with a video message in which he said, “Last year, I announced a Call to Action to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene services in health facilities, as we strive to achieve universal health coverage. UNICEF and WHO responded, detailing specific actions governments can take by 2030. Member States’ commitments were embodied in the Resolution adopted at the recent World Health Assembly. I urge you to offer all your support. Together, we can solve this crisis.”

WHO and UNICEF have organized a follow-up event focusing on country action and global work plans for WASH in health care facilities that will take place in Zambia September 9–11, 2019.

For more information: www.washinhcf.org