More than two dozen professionals gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a workshop aimed at identifying strategic opportunities to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services at rural health centers – a critical component of quality health care. Jenna Davis and Rachel Cardone of Stanford’s Program on Water, Health and Development, developed and led the event, which was hosted by the Millennium Water Alliance and sponsored by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Representatives from the North Mecha Woreda government, along with health extension workers and staff of NGOs participated in the event. Additional meetings were held between WHD and MWA staff, officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Ministry of Health, as well as representatives from key development partner organizations such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
“Water sector professionals are great at identifying what’s not working,” said Davis. “We asked the workshop participants to not just describe the challenges, but to unpack the ‘why’ behind them. They dug into the the resource constraints, information gaps and missing accountability mechanisms that undermine effective service delivery. I think everyone came away with a deeper appreciation of how complex many of these problems are – which also provides more opportunities to intervene than they might ordinarily consider.”
The workshop focused on the contribution of water, sanitation and hygiene to infection prevention and quality-of-care efforts in rural health centers within the Amhara region.
“The flavor that Stanford University has brought to Millennium Water Alliance in evidence-based program designing to address the root causes of WASH in health care facilities is irreplaceable. It is rare to find academic institutions working hand-in-glove with development practitioners and this is the spot usually missed in development efforts,” said Tedla Mulatu, MWA Ethiopia country director.
Through highly interactive exercises, participants identified key challenges to improving water supply services in health centers, then “dug deep” to identify the complex set of causal relationships that gave rise to each challenge. Armed with this more comprehensive and nuanced perspective, participants worked to identify strategic opportunities for intervention that can effectively and sustainably address these challenges.
“The opportunity to partner with and get input from our government partners about the best way to solve challenges and support government priorities for WASH in health care facilities was invaluable,” said Laura R. Brunson, MWA global program director.