WaterAid statement at World Health Assembly: Global strategy on women's, children's and adolescents' health – early childhood development

The following statement was delivered by WaterAid's Advocacy Coordinator, Dan Jones, at the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva.

Honourable chair and delegates, WaterAid applauds the efforts to accelerate progress on women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health. We commend the recognition of multi-sectoral action within the 2018 Global Strategy monitoring report, and welcome the integrated approach of the Nurturing Care Framework for Early Childhood Development.

Water, sanitation and hygiene underpin child development, and we urge all Member States to integrate actions on WASH alongside those on health, nutrition and education to ensure all children can survive and thrive.

Diarrhoeal diseases remain a leading cause of death for children under 5, while infections such as sepsis remain a major contributor to maternal and newborn mortality. The illnesses caused by inadequate WASH are major contributing factors to undernutrition which damages children’s development, preventing them from fulfilling their potential.

Sadly these issues are not a surprise given that one in nine people do not have clean water close to home, one in three do not have adequate sanitation and over a third of healthcare facilities in low- and middle-income countries lack access to a water source.

Quality, equity and dignity in healthcare cannot be delivered without water, sanitation and hygiene. Efforts to improve early childhood development, support adolescent girls’ health and achieve gender equity will fail without WASH.

We therefore call on Member States and WHO to take three actions:

  • Firstly, recognise that SDG 6 on water, sanitation and hygiene is fundamental to achieving SDGs 2, 3, 4 and 5, and reflect this within the implementation guidance for the Nurturing Care Framework

  • Secondly, prioritize investment in WASH in healthcare facilities and ECD centers as a core component of quality care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

  • Thirdly, scale up integrated WASH-health approaches and invest in research and learning to strengthen the evidence base about the most effective approaches.

Thank you for your attention.