When Soapbox was launched in March 2012, its vision and mission had a clear time-limited intention. We agreed that our small NGO would continue to operate as long as its catalytic role was adding value to the wider efforts of many organisations seeking to improve maternal and newborn health in low-income countries. Back in 2012, the burden of healthcare-associated infections in maternity units and the associated focus on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and on infection prevention and control (IPC) were relatively neglected topics – both programmatically and in terms of research. We set out to lead the way on redressing this – working collaboratively, of course – hence the name.
Seven years on, there are many more actors, and WASH in healthcare facilities, IPC and indeed antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are now clear priorities for a large number of agencies. And so the Soapbox Collaborative will cease to exist at the end of June 2019, having played its part in two main ways – by developing tools to illuminate the scope and determinants of poor hygiene at birth, and by identifying major opportunities to intervene in terms of both hand hygiene and the training of facility cleaners as often neglected members of the healthcare workforce – so bringing benefits within and beyond maternity units. We have had the enormous privilege of working intensively with partners in eight countries, with our three hub institutions in the UK – the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian, and with many international agencies and large NGOs.
But we did design Soapbox to achieve obsolescence, and after much deliberation we recognise it is the right time to formally close the charity on June 30th 2019. This is not a moment for disappointment or concern, but rather one of celebration. We are ending Soapbox on a high note. Our work will continue to reach far and wide, with ongoing dissemination aimed at those who can continue to build on the legacy we leave, adapting our products as they go on to build safer environments, quality health care for all and stronger communities. Key resources developed, such as the TEACH CLEAN package and the WASH & CLEAN Toolkit, will continue to remain freely available online. We are also hosting an event on June 18th at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which will be live-streamed. More details are available here.
Going forward, many of our partners and some of the Soapbox research team will remain engaged in the field of IPC in maternity units. At the end of May, Soapbox were privileged to attend the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, and to witness the passing of a resolution whereby member states agreed to prioritise water, sanitation and hygiene, particularly in healthcare facilities, to achieve the goal of Universal Health Coverage for everyone, everywhere by 2030. In addition, with environmental cleaning now included in the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme, we can be optimistic that real improvements at scale for mothers and newborns will continue to happen.
The time has come for us to share, to celebrate, and to thank both our original benefactor – Miss Elsie Duguid – for having the confidence in us, and our amazing partners, near and far.
The Soapbox Team and Trustees: Alec Cumming, Roelf Dijkhuizen, Giorgia Gon, Elizabeth Goodburn, Wendy Graham, Jenny Ingram, Sarah Jones, Claire Kilpatrick, Sylvia Marinova, Emma Morrison, Elaine Mottram, Alistair Robertson, Louise Thomas, Sandra Virgo, Susannah Woodd.