Only 51% of establishments meet the full WHO criteria for basic hygiene services
Half of the world’s health facilities do not have complete hygiene services. The data is from the latest report by the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), released this Tuesday (30).
According to the document, 3.85 billion people attend establishments that do not have water and soap or hand sanitizer at points of service and in bathrooms. In addition, about 688 million people are served in units that do not have hygiene services.
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The report data was collected in 2021 in 40 countries, representing 35% of the world population. According to the document, 68% of health establishments had hygiene facilities, such as hand sanitizer, at service points, while 65% had soap and water in the bathrooms.
Nonetheless, only 51% of establishments had both services – alcohol gel and soap and water points for hand washing in the bathrooms -, which is a criterion established for basic hygiene services. In addition, 9% of the units did not have either service.
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This situation favors the risk of infections, as contaminated hands and environments play a significant role in the transmission of viruses and bacteria in health facilities. Also according to the WHO, interventions to increase access to hand washing, with soap and water, and environmental cleanliness are the basis of infection prevention and control programs.
“Hygiene facilities and practices in healthcare settings are non-negotiable. Its improvement is essential for the recovery, prevention and preparation of the pandemic”, defended the director of the WHO Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, Maria Neira, in a statement. “Hygiene in healthcare facilities cannot be guaranteed without increasing investments in basic measures, which include clean water, clean toilets and safely managed healthcare waste,” she added.
“Hospitals and clinics without clean water and basic hygiene and sanitation services are a potential death trap for mothers, pregnant women, newborns and children. Every year, about 670,000 newborns lose their lives to sepsis. This is absurd, all the more so because these deaths are preventable,” added Kelly Ann Naylor, director of UNICEF’s World Health Assembly Commitment to Strengthening Water, Sanitation and Environment (WASH).
Inequality between countries
The WHO and Unicef report also showed that countries are disproportionately affected by poor hygiene. According to the document, in sub-Saharan African countries, only 37% of facilities offer soap and water in the bathrooms.
In the least developed countries, only 53% of health facilities have local access to a source of protected water. For purposes of comparison, the overall figure is 78%, with hospitals (88%) having more comprehensive hygiene services than smaller healthcare facilities (77%).
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Furthermore, in countries with available data, one in ten health facilities globally did not have a sanitation service. This proportion ranged from 3% in Latin America, the Caribbean and East and Southeast Asia to 22% in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In the least developed countries, only one in five (21%) had basic sanitation services in health facilities. The report’s data also reveals that many health facilities still lack basic environmental cleaning and the safe separation and disposal of health waste.
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