At the start of 2008, the International Year of Sanitation, nearly two thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa were still without a toilet.

World Bank study has estimated that the cost of poor environmental health in child diarrhoea and associated malnutrition amounts to some 8% of the GDP of an African country.

This consortium seeks to begin to redress the balance.

Click on the names of the partners to see more information about them:

Egerton University, Kenya

Egerton’s vision is to be a world class University for the advancement of humanity.
Its mission is to generate and disseminate significant knowledge and offer exemplary education to contribute to and innovatively influence national and global development.
Egerton’s core values are a passion for excellence and devotion to duty; integrity, transparency and accountability, and social fairness.

Egerton offers MSc courses including: Water Resources Engineering, Environmental Science, and Limnology (aquatic microbiology and water pollution). The university also conducts a tropical module of the International postgraduate course on limnology (IPGL).

The Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering offers a BSc course in Water and Environmental Engineering, whose graduates are absorbed in the water and sanitation sectors in the country. Due to emerging demand, it is now developing the curriculum for an MSc course in Environmental Health Engineering and a BSc course in Sanitary Engineering.

The Department is involved in research on household water treatment using Maerua subcordata juice extract and bio-filtration. It is also studying resources-oriented sanitation in peri-urban areas.

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Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology (KNUST), Ghana

The vision of KNUST is to be globally recognised as the premier Centre of excellence in Africa for teaching in Science and Technology for development; producing high calibre graduates with knowledge and expertise to support the industrial and socio-economic development of Ghana and Africa. The mission of KNUST is to provide an environment for teaching, research and entrepreneurship training in Science and Technology for development of Ghana and Africa. KNUST will also provide service to the community, be open to all the people of Ghana and positioned to attract scholars, industrialists and entrepreneurs from Africa and other international communities.

In the 1970s when Prof. Albert Wright developed the Kumasi ventilated latrine there, KNUST Kumasi was already a longstanding centre of excellence for research into appropriate water and sanitation engineering and environmental health. KNUST currently offers MSc courses in Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation, Health Education, and Environmental Sciences.

The Civil Engineering Department has close links with the Department of Community Health and with the College of Agriculture Mampong campus, which has a complementary research area in pathogen removal from faecal sludge for urban agriculture, and which is developing a full time degree in Environmental Health and Sanitation for District Environmental Health Officers and a distance learning diploma in Environmental Health and Sanitation Education for teachers and coordinators in the School Hygiene Education Programme.

Recent research to improve health has ranged from governance issues in water supply for the urban poor to faecal pathogen and heavy metal removal from water and wastewater. KNUST has experience of capacity-building programmes such as that funded by the Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Cooperation (though the NUFFIC funding is due to end in December 2008), and of multinational research consortia such as Sustainable Water in Cities (SWITCH), funded by the EU.

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London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, England

LSHTM is among the premier centres worldwide for policy-relevant interdisciplinary research on water, sanitation and hygiene. Its work on hygiene promotion has opened new avenues to health-related behaviour change and led to the formation of the Global Public-Private Partnership on Handwashing with Soap. Its work on sanitation led the World Bank and other agencies to adopt the marketing approach, and it is in the forefront of operational research on household water management. Above all, its research on the health impacts of water, sanitation and hygiene is accepted as authoritative.

The Environmental Health Group brings a number of capacity-building experiences to this consortium. One is the Dracunculiasis Operations Research Network co-chaired in the 1990s by Sandy Cairncross of LSHTM and Dr Sam Bugri of the Ghana Health Service, which at very modest cost set up pilot projects which became the models for national eradication programmes in several African countries. A second is the WELL Resource Centre Network in Water & Environmental Health, through which six Southern partner organizations were empowered to carry out policy-oriented research and consultancy work for DFID. The third is the establishment by Prof. Cairncross of the TARGETS Consortium for research on communicable disease and poverty, including the INDEPTH Network, Makerere and Zambia universities and the Ifakara Health Research Centre.

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Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Uganda

Mbarara University of Science and Technology has a reputation for producing internationally acclaimed, community-oriented graduates. Mbarara’s mission is to see the university become a centre for academic and professional excellence in science and technology.

The Department of Community Health provides training to undergraduate and graduate medical and nursing students. The training and research emphasize participatory health programming and research in local communities, in which staff have over a decade of experience in a resource-strapped environment. There is a strong interest in the ecology of disease.

The Department hopes to recover an abandoned and almost derelict research station 25 miles east of Mbarara, in SW Uganda. The area has a remarkable combination of human, livestock and wildlife disease interactions around shared water resources. The rapidly changing pattern of water resources development and livelihoods, the settlement of previously nomadic pastoralists and refugees, and the incipient urbanization, provide multiple opportunities for important but manageable doctoral projects. An interdisciplinary research programme is already under way, with work on water supply in relation to poverty, malaria control in relation to settlement, and environmental effects of livelihood changes, all already producing results. Many more projects are being developed. The interdisciplinary nature of the work so far has been immensely successful due to its residential character. It has proven effective for postgraduate training for students from all parts of Uganda and from overseas.

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Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Gauteng Province, South Africa

The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) is a proud product of South Africa's first decade of democracy. While the size and scope of this dynamic new institution impress, the quality of its teaching, research and community engagement is what makes the University really stands out. TUT was established on 1 January 2004, with the merging of the former Technikon Northern Gauteng, Technikon North-West and Technikon Pretoria. At the time of the merger, the uniquely South African institutional designation of "technikon" was dropped in favour for the internationally accepted "university of technology" designation.

As a progressive institution of higher education, the Tshwane University of Technology's mission is to contribute innovatively to the socio-economic development of South Africa.

TUT’s vision is to be a quality-driven university of technology at the cutting edge of innovation.

The host department in the TUT will be the Environmental, Water and Earth Sciences Department in the Faculty of Science. Several other departments there and in the Faculties of Engineering and Humanities will be internal collaborative partners; e.g. the Department of Water Care with Professor Maggie Momba – a molecular biologist with special interest in the health-related quality of water at the point of use. The university has excellent platforms for undergraduate training of environmental health and water care practitioners, biomedical technologists, environmental science graduates and environmental engineers. All of the departments training these potential young scientists have shown a keen interest in playing a role in research into water, sanitation, hygiene and environmental health.

The TUT has excellent facilities for offering short courses as well as MSc course modules, including support for dissertation research work by participants in the MSc courses.

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University of Copenhagen, Denmark

The University has, over the past several decades, established an extensive research and research capacity building programme in Africa as well as south-east Asia, including environmental health related to public health, anthropology, geography, medicine and ecology. The Faculty of Health Sciences has over the past four decades, in partnership with other university departments, offered courses and degree programmes in international health, tropical medicine and related research methods. After a recent reorganization of the Danish higher education sector, the University now includes the Faculty of Life Sciences (formerly the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University) and the Centre for Health Research and Development (formerly the Danish Bilharzia Laboratory – DBL), both of which, together with the Faculty of Health Sciences, have substantial experience in environmental health research capacity-building in Africa and elsewhere, funded by Danish International Development Assistance (Danida) through the Enhancement of Research Capacity (ENRECA) programme and other sources.

Examples include support to research capacity building on water, sanitation and health, including wastewater re-use in Africa and Vietnam and the DBL's work on Guinea worm disease in northern Ghana. The University hosts a number of WHO collaborating centres in areas directly relevant to SNOWS. Thus, the expanded university has substantial capacity to support and mentor researchers in environmental epidemiology and public health (human and veterinary), communication, qualitative research, parasitology, microbiology and other related fields.

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University of East Anglia, England

UEA hosts the highest rated School of Environmental Science (5**) in the UK, home to the internationally recognised Tyndall Centre for climate change research. Key aspects of the management and operation of the Tyndall Centre have influenced this proposal, particularly that the research direction is not set out in advance but is allowed to develop in response to need and influenced by key internal and external advisors and stakeholders. The School of Development Studies with its related Overseas Development Group is one of the longest established in the country, with research activities in social and human development, political economics and livelihoods and environmental change.

With the expected incorporation of the BBSRC John Innes Centre and Institute for Food Research into UEA, it will also become the most active UK university in the study of enteric pathogens and epidemiology of enteric disease. Within the medical school, Prof. Paul Hunter leads a group funded from WHO, NERC and EU researching the links between water and health with projects in South Africa and Vietnam. UEA also works closely with the University of Gezira, and has delivered a training course in intervention epidemiology there. UEA will focus on supporting relevant research in epidemiology and in environmental microbiology.

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University of Gezira, Sudan

The key area for collaboration is the medical school, one of the most innovative teaching schools in Africa. The school has a reputation for its strong focus on community health especially amongst marginalised populations. The school has a strong department of public health medicine with successful externally funded research programmes. The school works closely with the Institute for Nuclear and Molecular Medicine and the Blue Nile Institute for Communicable Diseases. In collaboration with the University of East Anglia, UG has recently run national training in intervention epidemiology.

As one of the major causes of mortality in children under 5 years, water-related disease has been identified as a major priority in Sudan and the school, located next to the largest irrigation scheme in Africa, wishes to develop its research programme in this area.

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University of Venda, Limpopo Province, South Africa

The University of Venda was established in a rural setting in 1982. From 2002, the Department of Education mandated it to become a comprehensive university that offers career-focused programmes. Prior to its new mandate, The University of Venda had already taken a step to establish career-focused programmes with emphasis on science and technology. The process of transformation attracted better qualified staff and resulted in improved student profile. To date the university has established a niche for itself with a problem oriented, project based curriculum and a strength in nurturing under-prepared students into nationally competitive graduates.

The university’s participation in SNOWS will mainly be through its Department of Microbiology, in the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. Other faculties such as the School of Health Sciences and the School of Environmental Sciences will be collaborative partners. The Department of Microbiology provides training for undergraduate and postgraduate students up to postdoctoral level. The department focuses on health related research with emphasis on water, food, sanitation and hygiene practices and how these aspects impact on the lives of vulnerable people in the rural communities, and diseases such as cryptosporidiosis. The laboratories of the department are adequately equipped to pursue research activities as outlined in this proposal.

The development of a research niche area on water, sanitation, hygiene and health issues at the University of Venda will have a great impact on the surrounding rural communities and provide valuable insight into problems facing other such areas in South Africa and the African continent. The programme will also assist in providing South Africa with skilled human resources, in line with national government strategy.

The University of Venda is situated at a unique location within a poor rural context and very close to the borders of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana. It therefore could become a regional centre of excellence in research and training on water, sanitation, hygiene and health.

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