Sightsavers’ technical manager in Kenya, Samuel Eshitemi Omukuba; and the Kenya ministry of health’s Dr Sultani Hadley Matendechero, believe that a strong partnership between WASH and NTD implementers will bring significant benefits across both sectors.
NTDs like trachoma, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, intestinal worms and schistosomiasis are diseases of public health importance in many countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. However, many of them are preventable through improving access to safe water, basic sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
In Kenya, NTDs are a major cause of suffering, illness and disability. According to the government’s current NTD strategy, approximately 25 million Kenyans are at risk of having at least one NTD.
In order to control and eliminate NTDs as a public health problem in Kenya, the ministry of health, in partnership with Sightsavers and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), carry out regular mass drug administration activities within qualifying affected regions. These target all eligible community members with safe and effective medicines to break the transmission of disease.
But this is not enough. Community transmission of NTDs can be reduced by WASH interventions, which include providing access to safe water and making basic sanitation facilities, like latrines, available. Equally important is the need for widespread behaviour change such as ending open defecation and improving personal hygiene. In fact, studies have shown that WASH interventions can contribute to reducing trachoma by up to 27 per cent, and schistosomiasis by as much as a staggering 77 per cent.
In Kenya, a good number of NGOs, private sector companies and ministries either have the potential to contribute, or are already contributing to, NTD control and elimination efforts yet they either knowingly or unknowingly work in silos. There is a big opportunity to eliminate NTDs as a major public health problem through proactively promoting and enabling positive collaboration among these organisations, which is what we are seeking to do this World Water Week.
Sightsavers supported the ministry of health to develop a ‘landscape analysis’ of the state of NTDs and WASH in Kenya. The report was presented to key stakeholders, including ministry officials, funding and implementing partner agencies, and civil society.
This analysis presents the structure of both sectors, interventions carried out, key data in both areas and areas where integrated approaches are bound to have the most impact on efforts to control and eliminate targeted NTDs.
This World Water Week, our two key recommendations for stakeholders in the WASH and NTD sectors are:
The NTD sector and the World Health Organization already recognise WASH as critical to eliminating NTDs. It’s time for both sectors in Kenya to embrace a proactive push toward eliminating NTDs in stronger partnership – and it starts now, at World Water Week 2020.
Kenya is one of 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where we’re tackling trachoma as part of the Accelerate programme.About Accelerate
Samuel Eshitemi Omukuba is Sightsavers’ technical manager for WASH and behaviour change communications.
Dr Sultani Hadley Matendechero is head of vector-borne and neglected tropical diseases at the Kenyan ministry of health.
Sightsavers and Kenya’s ministry of health have worked together to eliminate avoidable blindness since 1952.
Sightsavers’ Edwin Maleko shares the impact of an inclusive eye health programme on communities and eye care services in Singida and Morogoro.
Sightsavers’ Laurène Leclercq shares successes from an award-winning project in Cameroon and Senegal that’s supporting people with disabilities to participate in all aspects of political life.
On International Women’s Day, on 8 March, we’re calling for health care to be accessible and inclusive for women and girls.