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Discussing "WASH away from the home” at UNC

Published on: 16/12/2015

A specially organised side session at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Water and Health Conference in October 2015 focused on WASH away from the home.

By Trevor Surridge (Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA)) and Marielle Snel

Key organisations such as UNICEF, WHO, Emory University, University of North Carolina, Simavi, Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) and IRC took the opportunity to exchange views in three thematic groups. Discussions focused not only on the importance of WASH away from the home, specifically health care facilities, work places and prisons, but also on how best we could tackle issues focusing on these WASH settings more effectively. We reflected on these settings in line with the proposed indicators (see download below).

Given the fact that WASH in schools is now in the Sustainable Development Goals, it was agreed not to include it in the side session discussions at this UNC session. It is extremely encouraging to see that so much more effort has been placed in schools with the current emphasis on keeping girls in school through appropriate menstrual hygiene management.

Discussion on health care facilities

In the health care facilities group discussion, it was agreed that over the past two years more efforts around health care facilities have taken place through UNICEF and WHO. However, it was clearly noted by the group that we have only touched the surface in this area.

From IRC's, perspective we are committing ourselves to working further on this issue with WHO and UNICEF WASH in a Health Care Facilities task team for Policy, Standards and Facility Improvements. We will also focus on some action research that will translate into bringing more national policy awareness in specific countries in Africa in the coming year.

Discussion on WASH in the work place

The group focusing on WASH in the work place concluded that more emphasis needs to be put on this setting, given that many people in the developing world will spend at least more of their time at work than home. The group held an energetic discussion on a number of issues such as employees at farms, factories, shops and market places. The wording of the "Proposed WASH at the workplace indicators" with the following rewording was suggested, namely:

  • Indicator 1: Workplaces provide and maintain access to safe drinking water, appropriate sanitation facilities and supplies to allow for proper hygiene at the workplace for workers and patrons
  • Indicator 2: Workplaces provide education and awareness building on safe drinking water, appropriate sanitation facilities and proper hygiene for workers

At IRC, we will be working more closely with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) which has made an important contribution in this area.

Discussion on WASH in prisons

The final working group focused on WASH in prisons. This group did try to understand how best to focus on this setting with more emphasis on Monitoring Information Systems at national level. IRC is currently in contact with International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) to reflect with them on what more can be done in this area through potential collaborative efforts.

The session ended on an enthusiastic note with a suggestion to set up a small task group based on those who attended this side session and any others, to further bring to light "WASH away from the home". For us, it is high time that this discussion on "WASH away from the home" takes place. Considering that most poor people spend even more time away from their home base, having proper WASH away from the home should be an implicit focus of our WASH sector. It is good to reflect, at the end of this year, on the important breakthroughs of work being done by UNICEF, WHO and others and look forward to working on further developing this area.



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