As governments prepare to gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 19 and 20, a new report published by a group of six influential aid agencies provides clear and compelling evidence that a combined approach to tackling poverty and disease—that brings together work on water and sanitation, health, education, and nutrition/food security—achieves better results for the world’s poorest.
Entitled Join up, Scale up: How integration can defeat disease and poverty, the report, co-authored by Action Against Hunger, Action for Global Health (UK & France), End Water Poverty, PATH, Tearfund, and WaterAid, highlights examples across 17 countries of how bringing different development approaches together—or integration—is working to help tackle poverty and disease, and calls on the international community, including donor and developing-country governments, to prioritise and invest in these joined-up programmes.
“We have clear and compelling evidence that integrated health, education, water and sanitation programs can achieve more significant and sustainable benefits for the world’s poorest communities”, stated Dr David Winder, CEO of WaterAid in America. “UN agencies and member States need to respond to the evidence presented here and use their influence to move the international community to expand upon these successes.”
As the challenges of poverty and lack of access to health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and education overlap in people’s lives, integrated aid programmes result in more effective and lasting solutions. For example, a hand washing and oral hygiene programme in elementary schools in the Philippines—involving the Department for Education, the not-for-profit organisation Fit for School, and regional and local government—cut school absenteeism by 30 percent, while the number of underweight children was reduced by one-fifth in targeted schools.
“Combining and coordinating services makes common sense – and fiscal sense too,” commented the former President of Cape Verde, Antonio Monteiro, as recently appointed Nutrition Advocate for West Africa, “but most importantly it creates greater impact for those who most need these essential services.”
The report also highlights work in Peru, where chronic child undernutrition was cut across the country by nearly five percent in under three years by bringing together community groups and politicians in a programme integrating small-scale financing, water and sanitation improvements, better child and maternal health care, and nutrition education programmes.
Meanwhile in Nepal, through working together, the national government, aid agencies, charities and local government have completed a programme to train all local doctors and nurses on hygiene education. This work is now going a step further with the setting up of a new nationwide water-quality surveillance system, dealing with the causes as well as the symptoms of the problem.
Integration is increasingly recognised across development fields as a critical supporting strategy, one that promotes sustainability and has demonstrated results in achieving impact. For example, the forthcoming report by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, analyzing the commitments made to the Global Strategy on Women and Children’s Health, includes integrated approaches as a key recommendation for improving the lives of women and children.
In total, the report showcases integrated aid work in 17 countries that, through addressing education, urban agriculture, hygiene, water and sanitation, income improvement, and a range of health needs, such as HIV/AIDs, diarrhoea, nutrition and maternal health, are making a real impact. Drawing from the evidence gathered, the report makes the following recommendations to international institutions, politicians, donors, and their NGO partners:
- Commit high-level political leadership and financial resources to integrated approaches, where they can create greater impact.
- Work with communities to design, implement, and evaluate integrated projects and programmes.
- Incorporate experience and expertise across different sectors and stakeholders into development programmes.
- Fund projects that demonstrate integrated approaches at the community level to learn what works, improve national plans, and inform scale-up strategies.
- Provide flexible funding to partner countries in support of national priorities and integrated programmes.
Join up, Scale up: How integration can defeat disease and poverty was researched and written by Action Against Hunger, Action for Global Health, End Water Poverty, PATH, Tearfund, and WaterAid. The full report is available online.
Mr. Antonio Monteiro is the Nutrition Advocate for West Africa for The Nutrition Working Group for West Africa that brings together organisations actively combating malnutrition in the region.
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ACF International | Action Against Hunger is an international humanitarian organisation committed to ending child hunger. Recognised as a leader in the fight against malnutrition, Action Against Hunger saves the lives of malnourished children while providing communities with access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger.
Action for Global Health (AFGH) UK and France is a broad European network of NGOs advocating for Europe to play a more proactive role in enabling developing countries to meet the Health Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Established in 2006, today Action for Global Health comprises 17 partners who are active in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and Brussels. As a network of development and health organisations we bring a unique blend of expertise, collectively raising awareness on the need to reach the health MDGs and promote the right to health.
End Water Poverty is an international campaign to end the water and sanitation, with 190 member organisations around the world. Together, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people are calling on governments to take bold action to save lives. For more information visit us here: www.endwaterpoverty.org and on twitter: @endwaterpoverty.
PATH is an international nonprofit organisation that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH’s work improves global health and well-being. For more information, please visit www.path.org.
Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency building a global network of local churches to help eradicate poverty.
WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. The international organisation works in 26 countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Over the past 30 years, WaterAid has reached 14.38 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 9.4 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org, follow @wateraid on Twitter or visit WaterAid on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid.