Long Read

Improved WASH services in health care facilities can save lives

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have published an assessment of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in 66,000 healthcare facilities in 54 low and middle income countries. This joint report concludes that 38% of these facilities do not have access to any water source.

A lack of water supply is just one challenge these facilities face: the report also reveals that 19% have no sanitation facilities and 35% lack water and soap for staff and patients to wash their hands and maintain basic hygiene.

Health risks

Healthcare workers cannot adequately carry out proper infection prevention without safe water, toilets and soap. This increases the potential risk of the outbreak of communicable diseases and infections during routine patient care and treatment.

Furthermore, this places mothers and children at risk during delivery.  According to a new WaterAid report, half a million babies die in their first month of life because they are born into unhygienic conditions in maternity clinics and hospitals. This number can be reduced with appropriate WASH services in place.

Global call for action

The WHO, UNICEF, governments and other partners will develop a global plan to address the most pressing needs and ensure that all healthcare facilities in developing countries have WASH services.

Simavi agrees that it is urgent to improve WASH services in healthcare facilities to ensure more people can provide and receive health care in a safe and hygienic environment. We advocate the inclusion of WASH in healthcare facilities in the post-2015 development agenda, as these facilities are a critical step towards basic health for all. In addition to our international lobbying, we upgrade water supply and sanitation systems in health facilities across Asia and Africa – as in the MKAJI programme in Tanzania, for example.

Upgrade WASH services in Tanzanian clinics

Together with Witteveen+Bos and three Tanzanian partners, Simavi works on improving WASH services in healthcare facilities in the Dodoma region. Out of the 342 primary health facilities in Dodoma, 50% have no water at all, only 33% have access to tap water, and everyone else has access to water via boreholes with varying quality levels.

With the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), we are implementing the MKAJI programme to upgrade water supply and sanitation systems in 100 primary health facilities. Maji kwa Afya ya Jamiii (MKAJI) means water for community health in Swahili.


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