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The approach of One Health links the human, animal, and environmental health spheres and offers conceptual and practical opportunities to leverage synergies and interfaces between different sectors. Adequate sanitation and WASH in general, including the related infrastructure, services, policies and practices, are critical components at the core of One Health.   

The webinar ‘One Health and the Power of WASH’ aimed to explore some of the key aspects of WASH from a One Health perspective. Taking place on the occasion of World Toilet Day on 19 November, it also marks the beginning of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week from 18 to 24 November, shortly after World One Health Day on 3 November. The event was hosted by the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) and jointly organized by the GIZ Sector Programme ‘One Health’, the Global Project ‘Pandemic Prevention and Control, One Health’ and the Sector Programme ‘Water Policy- Innovation for Resilience’.  

The webinar was moderated by Dr Benzian, Research Professor at the College of Dentistry at New York University and Co-director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Quality Improvement and Evidence-Based Dentistry. The event featured panelists from academia, civil society/NGOs, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and GIZ.  

Dr Daniel Eibach, Senior Policy Officer for One Health, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) at (BMZ) kicked off the webinar by pointing out the crucial role of WASH in the prevention of zoonotic infections, NTDs and in the context of preventing AMR. These thematic areas are part of the new BMZ One Health Strategy published earlier in 2021. Improving WASH services is one important piece of the puzzle to prevent diseases and improve health in a more integrative and holistic way. 

In his keynote, Prof Jakob Zinsstag-Klopfenstein of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute introduced One Health as a systemic approach recognizing the inextricable linkages of human, animals and their environment. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration involving academic and non-academic actors results in better health and wellbeing of humans and animals, financial savings, improved social resilience and better environmental sustainability. Applying WASH and environmental sanitation in a One Health concept addresses fundamental determinants of health, and is able to interrupt disease transmission in a very cost-effective manner.  

Maurice Konje Kiboye, Country Program Coordinator Kenya and Somalia with Vétérinaires Sans Frontières spoke about the importance of understanding the local social-ecological systems that influence behaviours and practices impacting on health and the wider environment. He emphasized the links between hygiene practices, disease transmission, effective prevention measures and the wider environment. 

Dr Michael Köberlein, Advisor Sanitation for Millions (GIZ) highlighted the need for a holistic and intersectoral approach to WASH in healthcare facilities, including the need to include a One Health perspective.  

Using music, sports and arts to inspire particularly young people is key to the work of Viva con Aqua de Sankt Pauli e.V., and its initiator Benjamin Adrion. He emphasized the use of positive language for creating behaviour change in the context of improving WASH. 

There was consensus among participants on the central role of One Health for intersectoral work on the links between human health, animal health, and the environment. Some of the main discussion points of the webinar included: 

  • Public health interventions related to WASH are highly relevant to address pathogen transmission. A recent example is the importance of measures during the COVID-19 pandemic 
  • Collaboration among researchers and practitioners and aligning approaches of professionals from different sectors to reach common objectives of better health of humans, animals and the environment, including budgets and policy frameworks 
  • Preventive measures address the problem at the root and are particularly cost-effective in the long-term 
  • Use and strengthen existing systems and institutions instead of creating parallel structures  
  • Involving civil society and communities, using positive language and creative means, connecting to (sub-)cultural movements, and linking urban with rural contexts  

In her closing remarks, Ruth Schumacher, Head of the Global Project Pandemic Prevention and Control, One Health (GIZ), highlighted some of the key issues raised by the panelists such as the need for collaboration not only across sectors but also stakeholder groups, geographies, and different methodologies and approaches. On behalf of GIZ she thanked all speakers for sharing their inspiring insights and the fruitful discussion on the importance of WASH for One health that GIZ will take forward in their One Health Programmes to implement BMZ’s One Health Strategy. 

Session recording:

Session recording Approaching One Health through WASH in Schools of the World Water Week 2021:

Link to BMZ One Health Strategy here.


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