Boosting One Health in Africa by bringing water, sanitation and freshwater conservation together

Posted on 22 March 2021

WWF is collaborating with four major WASH organizations on One Health under the Blue Heart of Africa Initiative
The Covid-19 pandemic has had huge impacts on communities and economies across the world. But it has also changed our relationship with the natural world. We’ve gained a better understanding of the connection between water, health and the economy than before, and many more of us can now clearly see the deep link between human health and landscape health.

There is no doubt that water and sanitation (WASH) provision and food security interventions for the most vulnerable risk in Africa being undermined if they do not include an additional focus on managing the freshwater resources and ecosystems upon which they depend.

WWF’s conservation mission forms an important component of a One Health approach to ensuring adequate WASH is possible.  To that end, on World Water Day, WWF signed agreements to collaborate with four global WASH organisations -, IRC-WASH, WaterAid and CARE – on achieving One Health outcomes through the Blue Heart of Africa initiative.

“We don’t have time to waste; integrated actions are needed now to ensure Africa’s sustainable water future – before climate change, rapid urbanization, and future potential global pandemics combine to lead us down an inescapable path. By working together, we can lift up both human health and landscape health simultaneously for the benefit of all,” said Alice Ruhweza, WWF Africa Director.

The ambitious Blue Heart of Africa initiative seeks to ensure that Africa's freshwater resources are effectively managed and conserved to sustain locally and globally important ecosystems, biodiversity and provide a foundation for sustainable development and secure livelihoods.

Under the One Health pillar, WWF’s conservation expertise will unite with leaders in the WASH sector to co-develop comprehensive strategies and programmes in selected priority landscapes based upon the premise that human health is symbiotic with - not distinct from - ecosystem health. By bringing together organizations and leaders in distinct fields, the initiative will be able to generate solutions that tackle the whole puzzle simultaneously, not small pieces of it.

Resilient societies, economies and ecosystems depend on healthy source water areas and freshwater ecosystems that are able to provide both direct and indirect benefits to people and nature. Access to clean water is ultimately driven not only by the availability and health of freshwater resources, but also by surface water and groundwater. For surface water, particularly rivers, this means healthy source areas with flows of water that are clean, follow reliable seasonal patterns, and are allocated with upstream and downstream users in mind.
Clean water for all is central to One Health
© James Morgan / WWF-US
Briefing on collaboration between WWF and four WASH organisations