Half of health facilities worldwide lack basic hygiene services – WHO, UNICEF

Half of healthcare facilities globally lack basic hygiene services with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer where patients receive care and in facility toilets , according to the latest report from the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) of WHO and UNICEF. About 3.85 billion people use these facilities, putting them at increased risk of infection, including 688 million people who receive care in facilities without any sanitation services.

“Hygiene facilities and practices in health care facilities are non-negotiable. Improving them is essential for pandemic recovery, prevention and preparedness. Hygiene in healthcare facilities cannot be guaranteed without increasing investment in basic measures, which include safe drinking water, clean toilets and safely managed healthcare waste,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health. “I encourage Member States to intensify their efforts to implement their commitment made at the 2019 World Health Assembly to strengthen water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in establishments. of health, and to monitor these efforts.”

The latest report, ‘Progress on WASH in health care facilities 2000–2021: special focus on WASH and infection prevention and control’, for the first time set this global benchmark on hygiene services – which assessed access to points of care as well as toilets – as more countries than ever report on the critical elements of WASH services in their hospitals and other health centres. For hygiene, data is now available for 40 countries, representing 35% of the world’s population, compared to 21 countries in 2020 and 14 in 2019.

The newly compiled global estimate reveals a clearer and more alarming picture of the state of hygiene in healthcare facilities. Although 68% of health facilities had point-of-care hygiene facilities and 65% had handwashing facilities with soap and water in toilets, only 51% had both. and therefore met the criteria for basic sanitation services. Additionally, 1 in 11 (9%) healthcare facilities globally have neither.

“If health care providers don’t have access to a hygiene service, patients don’t have a health facility,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF Director for WASH and Climate, Environment, Energy and Disaster Risk Reduction (CEED). “Hospitals and clinics without clean water and basic hygiene and sanitation services are a potential death trap for pregnant women, newborns and children. Each year, approximately 670,000 newborn babies die from sepsis. It’s a travesty, especially since their deaths are preventable.

The report notes that contaminated hands and environments play a significant role in the transmission of pathogens in healthcare settings and the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Interventions to increase access to handwashing with soap and water and environmental cleaning form the cornerstone of infection prevention and control programs and are essential for providing quality care, especially for a safe delivery.

Coverage of WASH facilities is still uneven across regions and income groups:

  • Installations in Sub-Saharan Africa are lagging behind hygiene services. While three-quarters (73%) of healthcare facilities across the region have alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water at point-of-care, only one-third (37%) have handwashing facilities with soap and water at toilets. The vast majority (87%) of hospitals have point-of-care hand hygiene facilities, compared to 68% of other healthcare facilities.
  • In the least developed countries, only 53% of health facilities have on-site access to a water source. For comparison, the global figure is 78%, with hospitals (88%) doing better than smaller healthcare facilities (77%), and the figure for East and Southeast Asia is by 90%. Globally, about 3% of health facilities in urban areas and 11% in rural areas had no water service.
  • Among countries with available data, 1 in 10 healthcare facilities worldwide had no sanitation service. The proportion of health facilities without sanitation services ranged from 3% in Latin America and the Caribbean and East and South-East Asia to 22% in sub-Saharan Africa. In the least developed countries, only 1 in 5 (21%) had basic sanitation services in health facilities.
  • The data further reveals that many healthcare facilities lack basic environmental cleaning and safe segregation and disposal of healthcare waste.

The report is launched during World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. The annual conference, which runs from August 23 to September 1, explores new ways to tackle humanity’s greatest challenges: from food security and health to agriculture, technology, biodiversity and climate .

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