About 70 participants from Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia are meeting in Accra, Ghana, for three days of deliberations on household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) strategies for the West African sub-region.
Participants are key national and regional government officials and specialists from identified ministries that address HWTS such as health, water or equivalent, public works, education, WHO and UNICEF among other stakeholder organisations.
The workshop, which began Monday, May 6, 2013, is being held under the theme “Scaling-up HWTS – National policy environment and integration strategies” and will focus on how participating countries can double their efforts to scale up the implementation of household water treatment and safe storage.
Giving the background to the three-day workshop in a speech read on his behalf, Ghana’s Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Alhaji Collins Dauda in his welcome address, alluded that while countries have made efforts to provide access to safe water, a substantial proportion of populations still rely on unimproved sources.
“Even those with improved sources such as piped systems, stand the risk of getting their drinking water re-contaminated, due to improper handling and storage at the household level. HWTS has been identified as a key intervention to improve water quality at the household level and an interim approach to contribute to the overall health gains associated with safe drinking water,” he stated.
For his part, Ghana’s Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Akwasi Opong-Fosu who delivered the keynote address, stated: “Where potable sources have been provided by our governments, contamination of all kinds occurs during collection, transportation, storage and consumption of water. Even when water is fetched from an improved, uncontaminated point source such as protected borehole, it is very often re-contaminated due to unhygienic handling at home.”
Adding that there is also contamination from urban water treatment works through broken distribution networks, the minister noted that HWTS programmes will be successful when complimentary, affordable, simple -to- use and culturally acceptable technologies are available; which makes the need to create demand for HWTS products, facilities and services crucial.
Topics to be discussed at the workshop organised by Ghana’s Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in collaboration with the ministries of Health and Water Resources, Works and Housing, include the “Global Perspective on HWTS” with particular reference to key initiatives, current HWTS practices and Research and Scaling up HWTS efforts.
Also, while all participating countries will make presentations on the interventions made so far as HWTS is concerned, other important topics will include “Behaviour Change and HWTS”, “Adapting the WHO recommendations for the national contexts” and case studies like “Gains from integrating HWTS and HIV Testing, Treatment and Care in West Kenya” and WASH Splash, which is a combination of hand-washing with soap, HWTS and Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in Ghana.
Overall, the objectives of the workshop are to provide an overview of current national household water treatment safe storage policies and regulatory environment in participating countries, and identification of strengths and challenges of the institutional environment and identification of specific mechanisms for scaling up.
Others are the sharing of lessons learned in policy formulation and implementation, as well as strategising on overcoming challenges to scaling-up and sustaining HWTS, through the drafting of national action plans towards the development of national strategies for implementation.
This is all geared towards the drafting of national plans of action for developing or reviewing HWTS strategies for scaling up and integration into other public and environmental health interventions.
It is also expected that after three days of deliberations there will be increased capacity for ongoing information sharing in the West Africa sub-region.
The three-day workshop is being held with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
By Edmund Smith-Asante