WASH & Neglected Tropical Diseases
More than 1 billion people worldwide suffer from one or more painful, debilitating tropical diseases that disproportionately impact poor and rural populations. Many of these diseases have received less attention and funding when compared with others such as HIV, yet they still cause severe sickness and disability, compromise mental and physical development, contribute to childhood malnutrition, reduce school enrollment, and hinder economic productivity. Three diseases, schistosomiasis (snail fever), soil-transmitted helminths (STH)—round worm, whip worm, hook worm—and trachoma, are all clearly linked to inadequate sanitation, contaminated food and water, and poor hygiene, providing an opportunity for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) related approaches to help change behavior and the environment.
Although it has been proven that mass drug administration is key to reducing the spread of disease quickly and cost effectively, the reinfection of these diseases will remain a problem if behaviors and the environment remain unchanged. It is unlikely that trachoma can be eliminated without face washing and improved environmental hygiene and the cycle of STH treatment and reinfection will likely persist until sanitation and hygiene practices and conditions are improved. WASHplus is documenting the links between WASH and NTDs and exploring ways to integrate WASH into NTD programs in different countries. To date, WASHplus has conducted a global desk review, which also highlights integration in eight countries. The team has also visited Bangladesh and proposed activities that would link WASH and soil transmitted helminths.