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International conference makes a splash in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector

This week delegates from 38 countries gather at the WASH 2014 Conference to reflect on how practitioners might work towards achieving a vision of global access to WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). Across 2 days of presentations and 3 days of training, more than 320 practitioners, advocates, researchers from government, civil society, donor organisations and academia have made a strong case for WASH to be prioritised in the post-2015 framework of targets which will be set by the United Nations in the coming two years.

WASH 2014 addresses the big issue – how to improve the lives of 780 billion people around the world who do not have access to safe drinking water and more than one third of the world’s population who lack basic access to sanitation services. Unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and insufficient hygiene practices are responsible for an estimated 801,000 children under the age of five dying from diarrhoea each year, and millions of people suffering blindness and other preventable diseases.

Marcus Howard, The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia said, “The world is talking about how to achieve universal access to water and sanitation and the WASH 2014 conference is critically addressing issues of quality service provision and how to sustain access. Safe water, sanitation and hygiene is essential to basic health and nutrition, and should be accessible for all human beings – rich or poor, urban or rural, disadvantaged groups or the general population.”

Mr Howard also said that the outcomes of the conference will have an impact on policy makers, both in Australia and further afield. “The conference provides a valuable opportunity to highlight WASH as a critical issue and its place in effective aid programs,” he said.

“Solving the problem is more than a matter of technology. To have an impact practitioners have to engage with the social, economic and political dimensions of WASH. The challenges are complex, and events such as this provide an essential space for sharing experience, developing new approaches and identifying what works best,” says Associate Professor Barbara Evans, University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Barbara is Conference Facilitator and Chair of the UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Program.Professionals working in WASH in Australia and DFAT have shown international leadership in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Within the emerging post-2015 global agenda, the critical dialogue that begins at the conference – and continues around the world through networks and connections made between conference attendees – can help achieve successes that improve life and health for generations to come.

 

The conference is managed by the International WaterCentre with the support of The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia).

 

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