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WaterAid celebrates

Presidential commitment to global health security
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Nov 7, 2016

WaterAid today celebrates President Obama's Executive Order, Advancing the Global Health Security Agenda to Achieve a World Safe and Secure from Infectious Disease Threats. The Order gives higher prominence and priority to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), an inter-governmental, multi-national initiative to prevent disease outbreaks; improve surveillance; and advance rapid, effective, and coordinated responses.

Safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are important components of the Global Health Security Agenda and the stronger health systems, more resilient communities, and healthier world it envisions.

As evidenced during the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2012, a lack of WASH in households and communities, which affects approximately one in ten people worldwide, allows for the spread of disease, from intermittent diarrhea to pandemic cholera. A lack of WASH in health facilities puts health care workers -- and their patients -- at risk of preventable illness and, as was the case with the recent Ebola outbreak, can decimate weak health systems. Fewer than half of health facilities in the developing world have safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene on premises.

"We are thrilled that President Obama has prioritized the Global Health Security Agenda and its critical work. This initiative is so valuable in part because it recognizes the role of WASH in preventing and controlling infection in the first place," said Lisa Schechtman, Director of Policy and Advocacy for WaterAid America. "The Global Health Security Agenda is a reflection of two important government mandates in one program: the need to protect Americans at home, knowing that diseases do not respect national borders; and the promise to help the poorest and most vulnerable people worldwide live healthy, productive and safe lives."

WASH is also critical to achieving the Global Health Security Agenda's commitments to addressing antimicrobial resistance. According to a recent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, supported by the UK Government, access to safe water and sanitation could reduce by 60% the number of diarrhea cases treated with antibiotics. This, in turn, reduces the risk of resistance developing.

Since 2014, the Global Health Security Agenda has been led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with other Federal Agencies and 55 governments around the world, without the security of a legal, executive, or budgetary framework to enable it to continue its important work. With today's Executive Order, President Obama has helped ensure that progress can continue. WaterAid thanks President Obama, and calls upon the next President of the United States to ensure ongoing commitment to this Executive Order, as well as sufficient funding for the Global Health Security Agenda and for all global WASH and health programs.