For immediate release – 26 Sept 2015

The President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and HRH Princess Sarah Zeid have spoken out in favor of stronger focus on water, sanitation and hygiene on the front lines of healthcare in New York today at an event hosted by the international development agency WaterAid and noted global health membership organization Global Health Council. 

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Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, giving welcoming remarks. Photo credit: Jeff McCrum

“I’m so glad that so many of us worked so hard to make sure that in the 2030 global agenda, water and sanitation has its own spot, in Goal 6, to reflect that this is one of the areas so much neglected,” said the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in her address to ‘Breaking Down Barriers’, a side event at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development hosted by WaterAid and the Global Health Council.

The President spoke of lessons learned in her country’s battle with the Ebola virus, and pledged to become a ‘champion’ of water and sanitation in the implementation of the new Goals, “because I know my experience and my country’s experience of the importance of this.”

HRH Princess Sarah Zeid, a strong advocate for maternal and newborn health, spoke of the indignity of adolescent girls trying to care for themselves during menstruation without water and sanitation, and described her shock at seeing schools where girls would stop attending, because the toilets were filthy and without doors.

“The dignity, health and well-being of women and children are the keystone to peace, progress and prosperity. Their deaths, injury and disability from preventable causes in pregnancy, at birth and in childhood exact a tragic toll on families, communities and nations that none of us can afford, and none of us should tolerate,” she said. “The rights to WASH and to health are not only universal, but indivisible.”

After the event, Sarina Prabasi, Chief Executive of WaterAid in America, said:

“It seems so simple — water, sanitation and good hygiene are essential in delivering good quality healthcare. Yet they are often neglected.  There are more than 650 million people in the world without access to water and more than 2.3 billion without safe, private toilets. In too many of these communities, health clinics are also without water and basic toilets and healthcare workers do not have water and soap for handwashing. Joining up our efforts will help communities become healthier places to live and can transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people.”

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Attendees of the Breaking Down Barriers: Why Quality Health Care is Reliant on WASH and How to Make Integration Happen Event. Photo credit: Jeff McCrum

Dr. Christine Sow, President and Executive Director of the Global Health Council, said:

“As we approach the launch of the United Nations Secretary General’s ‘Every Woman Every Child’ initiative’s new strategy we are delighted to see the focus on adolescent health and the inclusion of water, sanitation and hygiene as areas critical to well-being. It is imperative that we carry this focus into the implementation of the new UN Global Goals and use this as an opportunity to further bridge the gap between and across these highly-related sectors. At the end of the day, we must promote rights and dignity, and the SDGs must be seen as a powerful avenue to achieve this.”

The next challenge in the UN Global Goals on sustainable development is the setting of indicators which will measure progress. WaterAid and the Global Health Council are calling for indicators to measure hygiene in goals on water and sanitation and on health – for instance to show whether clinics have basins and soap for hand washing – to ensure strong progress is made.



For more details or for interviews please contact:

In New York (23-27 Sept) and London: Carolynne Wheeler, News Manager, WaterAid, +1 (917) 216-6081 or +44 (0)7903

In London: Fiona Callister, Media Relations Lead, +44 (0)207 793, or call the press office on +44 (0)20 7793 4537 or +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email

In New York: Alanna Imbach, Media and Communications Officer, WaterAid America, +1 917 209

In New York (to 29 Sept) and Washington DC: Danielle Heiberg, Advocacy Manager, Global Health Council, +1 202 255 7682


Notes to Editors:

About WaterAid

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.  The international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities.  Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 23 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 21 million people with sanitation.  For more information, visit, follow @WaterAid or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

* Around 1,400 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That’s one child every minute.
* Over 650 million people (around one in ten) are without safe water
* Over 2.3 billion people (around one in three) live without improved sanitation

About Global Health Council

Established in 1972, Global Health Council (GHC) is the leading membership organization supporting and connecting advocates, implementers and stakeholders around global health priorities worldwide. The organization is the collaborative voice of the global health community on global health issues; it convenes stakeholders around key global health priorities and actively engages key decision makers to influence health policy.