Chief Medical Officer (Ag), Dr. Laura Esprit has said that the absence of safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) contributes to over 890,000 deaths per year.
Esprit made this statement at the commencement of a two-day workshop and training for WaSH in Emergencies which will run from Thursday, December 1 to Friday, December 2.
The program is done through the Ministry of Health, Wellness and New Health Investment, in conjunction with DOWASCO, UNICEF, CDEMA, and the National Coordinating WaSH.
This training workshop is geared toward strengthening Dominica’s capacity to better respond to emergencies, particularly in the areas of water, sanitation, and hygiene.
The opening ceremony was held at the Windsor Park sports stadium on Thursday.
Esprit stated that water sanitation and hygiene are important determinants of health and it becomes even more important during emergencies.
“Safe water adequate sanitation and hygiene…actually [contribute] to disease prevention and according to the World Health Organization the absence of safe WaSH contributes to over 890,000 deaths per year from things like diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking water sanitation and hand hygiene.”
She noted that the link between human health and safe WaSH has long been established with results in improved human health from numerous diseases and conditions being related to improvements in WaSH.
“Improvements in sanitation have been related to reductions in mortality and morbidity from diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, intestinal worms, polio and also improvements in child survival and nutrition among children.”
The chief medical officer stated that Dominica strives to achieve and sustain a safe WaSH through numerous government policies and programs aimed at improvements in infrastructure which supports the program.
She noted that over 99% of the Dominican population have access to safe drinking water and 75% have access to adequate sanitation adding that the Ministry of Health disease surveillance program monitors disease trends to identify communicable diseases among a population.
“Our countries…subscribe to the United Nations’ sustainable developmental goals with goal #6 being to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, as well as the global acceleration framework as a pathway towards achieving safe sanitation for all,”
“Water and sanitation, infrastructure, financing, capacity development, and data and information management are key areas in which we are expected to invest to achieve the SDGs by the intended timeframe”
She said these policies and programs are indeed threatened by emergencies that we are faced with daily.
Esprit further stated that because Dominica was recently impacted by a trough system that affected communities on the east coast, as well as Hurricane Maria, and COVID-19, It is important to identify these vulnerabilities and establish mechanisms to respond to reducing these impacts.
Meantime, she expressed hope that after the training Dominica will better respond and prepare for upcoming hurricane disasters.
“After this two-day WaSH and emergency training, we hope with the objective that we build our own capacity and also use this as a networking opportunity to better respond and prepare for upcoming hurricane disasters but also have this as an opportunity to identify preparedness actions to better prevent, reduce and mitigate future hurricane events or climatic events.”
Esprit noted that UNICEF is the lead agency for the United Nations in the area of water sanitation and hygiene in humanitarian situations and as part of that its mandate is to ensure access to safe potable water, clean water, and sanitation.
In the event of a disaster, she noted that coordination is key, and the way that persons coordinate to address the greatest needs of the population at the quickest time possible is of the essence.
“I want to commend the government for the establishment of the WaSH committee in 2021. I know you’ve met regularly and this is the start of what I hope to be years of capacity building so that we learn how to build our capacity and to better respond [in] the event of a disaster.”