In January 2015, with the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and in partnership with the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WaterAid began a three-year initiative to improve access to drinking water and sanitation in rural healthcare facilities in Mali. Mali is one of the least-developed countries in the world, ranking 176 of 187 on the Human Development Index. Of 139 healthcare facilities studied in Segou, Mopti, Tombouctou and Gao regions, 62 percent experience water quality issues, 68 percent have limited handwashing facilities and 20 percent have insufficient water to meet their patients’ basic daily requirements. A lack of safe water, toilets and handwashing facilities poses significant health risks to patients, health workers, and nearby communities. Indeed, the 2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa underscored the urgent need for addressing this critical issue.
During the first year, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health, WaterAid and partners sought to gain a better understanding of the needs and challenges in the selected healthcare facilities. WaterAid and partners convened a national workshop to evaluate current policies, the funding landscape and the state of existing infrastructure. They trained health workers on good hygiene practices, raised patients’ awareness on the need for safe water and proper sanitation, and installed handwashing and drinking water stations. Journalists attended training sessions that explored the effects of water, sanitation and hygiene on public health. WaterAid also launched ‘Healthy Start’ in Mali, a four-year global advocacy priority focusing on maternal and child health with a call for every healthcare facility to have clean running water and safe, separate and accessible toilets for men and women.
Despite Mali’s fragile socio-political environment, WaterAid and partners are maintaining progress in year two. They are using safety plans to continually monitor risks associated with water, sanitation and hygiene in the selected healthcare facilities, construct and rehabilitate waterpoints, and install toilets and incinerators for healthcare waste management. Throughout the program, WaterAid and its partners continually monitor water, sanitation and hygiene in communities, schools, and health centers. Improving water access in Mali’s healthcare facilities is one additional step toward meeting WaterAid’s goal of providing water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030 in line with Sustainable Development Goal #6, as well as efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage under SDG Goal #3.