USAID-NISHTHA, Unilever host virtual event on WASH Matters

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USAID’s flagship health system strengthening project NISHTHA, implemented by Jhpiego in partnership with Unilever, organized a collaborative virtual event “WASH Matters Now More than Ever: Prioritizing Hygiene for Building Resilient Health Systems and Communities.” The event brought together key stakeholders and policy makers to discuss COVID-19 WASH interventions and highlighted the importance of cross-sectoral efforts and convergent actions for achieving a sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) future.

In India, USAID supports partnerships that leverage the combined expertise, assets, and resources of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to deliver cost-effective and results-oriented development solutions. Through its flagship health system strengthening project NISHTHA, and in collaboration with Unilever, USAID is expanding the reach and impact of healthy hygiene behaviors among communities across India for improved health and well-being. The partnership aims to leverage NISHTHA’s existing network of Health and Wellness Centers (HWCs) and community platforms like Panchayats/Self Help Groups/Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committees.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Anuradha Jain, Technical Advisor, Health System Strengthening, USAID/India, noted that reliable access to safe water and sanitation saves lives, improves livelihoods, and makes communities more resilient. Investments in water security, sanitation and hygiene are critical for progress in nearly all aspects of global development. This has been further emphasized to address the COVID-19 pandemic. She highlighted that USAID will continue to support innovative community-based, decentralized, and affordable safe WASH services and WASH-related policy interventions through public-private partnerships and active engagement with communities to ensure that the investments made bring efficiency, continuous access to improved WASH services, and empower communities to demand WASH services.

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Anila Gopal, Global Director, Health & Wellbeing, Unilever highlighted Unilever’s commitment through hygiene brands like Lifebuoy and Domex to leverage the company’s scale, expertise and resources to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. She also highlighted the important role played by the private sector for creating a sustainable WASH future and how strategic collaborations between business and NGOs can make a tangible impact on people’s lives, including in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking as a Chief Guest Shri. S T.S Singh Deo, Hon’ble Health Minister – Family Welfare & Panchayat Raj for Chhattisgarh, shared insights on prioritizing WASH in healthcare systems. The keynote speaker Dr. Jayanti.S.Ravi, IAS (Former PS Health, Gujarat), Secretary, Auroville Foundation discussed about the Government Priorities and Strategies for the WASH.

Other panelists included Pratibha Pal, IAS, Municipal Commissioner, Indore, Binu Arickal, Head Strategic Initiatives Water Aid, Anuj Sharma, Chief Executive, Piramal Sarvajal, and Ms Manvita Baradi and Director Urban Management center, Gujarat, Ahmedabad.

The session reinforced the understanding that transformative approaches to building a sustainable WASH future require stronger collaboration and partnerships, governance, and increased investments. There is a need to strengthen the capacities of health and sanitation workers, create mass awareness among the larger public through concerted behavior change programs and community engagement, and collaborate with the private sector and other partners for investing in the area of WASH. This will go a long way in building a sustainable WASH future and empower people to take sustained action at local levels.