One in four health care facilities has no water services; UN

World groundwater depleting at faster pace

Around 1.8 billion people are at a higher risk of COVID 19 and other diseases because of the lack of basic water services, WHO and UNICEF has warned.

The world organisations gave the earning in their latest report Fundamentals first: Universal water, sanitation, and hygiene services in health care facilities for safe, quality care. Stressing the importance of water and hygiene, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that working in a health care facility without water, sanitation and hygiene was akin to sending nurses and doctors to work without personal protective equipment.

“Water supply, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities are fundamental to stopping COVID-19. But there are still major gaps to overcome, particularly in least developed countries,” he said.

The report points out that one in four health care facilities has no water services, one in three does not have access to hand hygiene, one in ten has no sanitation services and one in three does not segregate waste safely.

Meanwhile UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that it was risky to sent healthcare workers and people without clean water, safe toilets and soap. “This was certainly true before the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year has made these disparities impossible to ignore. As we reimagine and shape a post-COVID world, making sure we are sending children and mothers to places of care equipped with adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services is not merely something we can and should do. It is an absolute must,” Fore said.

The report said that all the 47 least developed countries had worst situation. It said that one in two health care facilities does not have basic drinking water in these countries. One in four health care facilities has no hand hygiene facilities at points of care and three in five lack basic sanitation services, the report stressed.

However, the report said that all these could be fixed with roughly one dollar per capita. On an average, the report notes that 0.20 dollar per capita each year was needed to operate and maintain services.

The world |Organisations in the report maintain that incremental investments in WASH give big returns. It said that improving hygiene in health care facilities was a “best buy” for tackling antimicrobial resistance. Moreover, it also helps in reducing health care costs.

Improving WASH service was critical for vulnerable populations, especially pregnant mothers, newborns and children.

Recommendations:

  • Implement costed national roadmaps with appropriate financing;
  • Monitor and regularly review progress in improving WASH services, practices and the enabling environment;
  • Develop capacities of health workforce to sustain WASH services and promote and practice good hygiene;
  • Integrate WASH into regular health sector planning, budgeting, and programming, including COVID-19 response and recovery efforts to deliver quality services.

The world organisations point out that over 130 partners have committed resources for WASH. This includes dedicated financial commitments totalling to 125 million dollars.

Global Director for Water at the World Bank Group Jennifer Sara opined that water is PPE for millions of healthcare workers across the world. “It is essential that financing keeps flowing to bring water and sanitation services to those battling the COVID crisis on the frontlines. Funding WASH in healthcare facilities is among the most cost-effective investments that governments can make,” Sara said.

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