Atlanta-based global organizations to focus on water and sanitation April 9

By Maria Saporta

As evidence of Atlanta’s role as a convening place to work on global health issues, a major “World Water Day” conference is being held on April 9.

The event is being held to commemorate World Water Day — aimed at shining attention on how neglected diseases can be prevented with improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene.

The participants in the April 9 conference are a “who’s who” of Atlanta-based organizations, initiatives and professionals dedicated to improving the quality of water and sanitation around the world.

They include CARE; the Center for Global Safe Water at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the International Trachoma Initiative and Children Without Worms programs of the Task Force for Global Health; and Habitat for Humanity.

They will co-host “Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene: Transforming Lives,” which will take place from 5 – 7 p.m. in the Claudia Nance Rollins Auditorium at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

The program will address the global concerns for water and sanitation needs, and the responsibilities of communities to provide it.  It will feature a panel discussion moderated by Jeffrey Koplan, vice president for global health at Emory University and former director of the CDC.

The panelists will include Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases at CDC; Christine Moe, director of the Center for Global Safe Water at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health; and David Addiss, director of the Children Without Worms program at the Task Force for Global Health.

Safe water and sanitation are at the heart of reducing poverty. They are essential to preventing childhood mortality and morbidity, and for increasing food security. Nearly 2.5 billion people are without access to adequate toilets, and 800 million people lack a safe source of drinking water.

The World Health Organization reports that diarrheal disease – primarily caused by drinking unsafe water or lack of good hygiene – kills more children every year than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Water, sanitation, and hygiene is also critical for controlling neglected tropical diseases, that collectively account for nearly one billion cases of blindness, chronic abdominal pain, malnutrition, stunted growth, and diminished livelihoods and well-being.

“Starting in the beginning of the last century, the U.S. made significant investments in providing safe water and adequate sanitation that dramatically improved health across the country,” said Michael Beach, associate director for healthy water in the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at CDC. “The tremendous impact of those investments makes it imperative that we now commit to working with countries around the globe to support their efforts to provide safe water and adequate sanitation to their populations so they can prevent the same devastating diseases like cholera and typhoid that have become history in more developed countries.”

Lack of access to safe water and sanitation also disproportionately affects the health and safety of women and girls.

“CARE operates on the belief that poor girls and women hold the key to ending poverty. With the proper resources, they are able to transform lives and create positive change in their communities,” says Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA. “This is why CARE has partnered with other organizations to improve water and sanitation.”

Besides helping to reduce disease burden and improve gender equality, innovation in safe water and sanitation contributes to improved living and economic conditions and supports the growth of national and regional economies.

“Habitat has been building homes, communities and hope for more than 35 years,” says Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “A holistic approach to housing, including safe and reliable access to water and sanitation, is critical to addressing the many challenges faced by the families and communities we serve.”

Partners of this event are involved in many projects to improve water and sanitation, such as eradicating harmful parasites found in stagnant water, leading the global fight against cholera and tropical disease control, and training the next generation of water and sanitation professionals on effective strategies and technologies.

“At the Center for Global Safe Water, we recognize the power of partnerships united by the common goal to improve access to sufficient, safe water, sanitation, and hygiene,” Dr.  Moe said. “Together, we will address these issues through applied research, monitoring, evaluation, and partnerships for training and capacity building.”

Please click on the link to register to attend “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Transforming Lives.” Space is limited.  The event will also be streamed live online.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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