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Last month’s meeting on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in health care facilities organized by the WHO, UNICEF and SHARE and involving over 30 partners including Soapbox, was certainly for me the meeting of the year. Four days flew by where the participants had the chance to focus on the priorities needed to gather evidence to catalyse change around the topic of WASH in facilities – a topic that is finally emerging as a global priority.

Out of the presentations, the gem for me was hearing about the incredible national efforts to improve WASH in facilities in Zambia, Tanzania and India that are reaching hundreds of facilities in each of these counties, and a remarkable organisation crossing national boundaries –  Infection Control Africa Network—that has been training over 7000 people working in infection prevention and control in Sub-Saharan Africa.

One of the successes of the meeting was the coming together of a variety of key stakeholders in the field – engineers and WASH experts, together with experts in universal health coverage, and quality of care improvement. The recognition of quality of care as the steering force of this group was emphasised, with WASH needing to be integrated into the current healthcare system to help this improvement process.

Key priorities for research were identified and Soapbox is strategically placed to support several of those including antimicrobial resistance, unpacking the transmission routes to hospital-acquired infection, training of cleaners, using microbiological surveillance for monitoring and improving environmental hygiene, and behaviour change.

The most telling component of all was that people came together for the meeting, as was emphasised repeatedly throughout, because they believe in this cause and the impact it can have on people’s lives, because it is a matter of basic human rights, and most importantly “doing no harm”. Through the week, one could almost see the passion and excitement driving the participants; it seems it was the meeting of the year, not just for me, but for many of them too.

Presentations from the meeting can be found here.