WaterAid statement at World Health Assembly: Health, Environment and Climate Change

The following statement was delivered by WaterAid's Alison Macintyre on 21 May 2018 at the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva.

Honourable chair and delegates, WaterAid welcomes the report on health, environment and climate change. We support the prioritization of environmental risks and determinants of health at the forefront of WHO and member states’ agendas, particularly the recognition of water and sanitation as critical to supporting healthy populations and the environment. We applaud the emphasis on joint leadership by multiple ministries to drive whole of government, multisector and multi-stakeholder approaches required to meet the challenges presented.

Through our work, WaterAid experiences the difficulties of driving successful cross-sectoral action every day; political will at the global level must be met with the implementation of cross-sector strategies and investment in national level action. Current progress, particularly on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), is too slow; a step change is needed to deliver action that yields results.

Last year saw some of the worst cholera outbreaks in recent history, that persist due to failures in cross-sector action and investment in water, sanitation and hygiene. The silent crisis of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities also exemplifies the consequences of overlooking environmental risks and determinants. In 2015, WHO reported that 38% of healthcare facilities do not have water, 19% do not have safe sanitation and 35% do not have hand hygiene infrastructure.

WaterAid urges Member States and WHO to seize the opportunity presented through the report and the proposed Global Strategy to be discussed at the 72nd WHA, to drive the step change required to coordinate and scale up action on WASH.

WaterAid stands ready to support Member States and WHO to address immediate WASH crises, particularly water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities. Achieving basic WASH in every healthcare facility is a winnable battle, one that should be at the forefront of all strategies to address environment, climate change and health.

Thank you.