Toilets, taps, and soap were the subjects of a concurrent two-day expert working group on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) and Well-Being in Hamilton on November 25th & 26th, 2013, hosted by the United Nations Institute on Water, Environment, and Health together with the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research, McMaster University, and the University of Waterloo and supported by the Canadian Institute for Health Research.
The group comprised international experts, researchers and practitioners as well as those from Canada, including Dr. Lars K. Hallström, Director of the University of Alberta’s Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities. It concluded that there is an urgent need to bring together the knowledge and skills of researchers, policy makers and practitioners to address the WaSH challenges in all aspects of domestic and international development.
The group noted that especially in rural, remote and otherwise marginalized communities worldwide, WaSH remains a daily challenge. These chronic societal and infrastructural problems are further amplified in emergency situations. Canada’s efforts for supplying clean water in parts of the Philippines or in Haiti in 2010 were noted as good examples of emergency WaSH provisions, while many long-term needs remain.
The group urged all private, public and civil society sectors to make immediate and serious efforts to consider how to increase access to safe water, improved sanitation, and enhance hygiene practices whether as part of health care provision, or extending Canada’s business opportunities. Participants agreed to continue to share both their failures and successes in WaSH in the belief that there is much to be learned from both successes and failures. The group will start immediately to identify WaSH experts who can assist health, education, development, and trade groups to invest in WaSH. These experts can provide best evidence and practices, and raise awareness that it makes economic sense to promote WaSH at home and abroad.