Why is ‘WASH in Health’ important?
Initially we did not realize it was an important issue, because we thought the health facilities were complying with all the requirements of the communities. Through the first phase of the national sanitation campaign (2011-2016), where the focus was on communities and schools, we came to realize that institutions did not have water supply or latrines, and that policies and regulations were not abided.
We then realized that at health facilities there was a similar picture as in schools: health facilities having no water supply, having inadequate sanitation facilities (or out of order) or none at all. To make things worse, there were no hand-washing facilities.
Without WASH facilities at health care facilities, how can doctors and health staff wash their hands between attending patients, for instance at the maternal wards and doctors rooms? They have to put on their gloves without washing their hands, or wipe their hands on a towel only, as there is no hand-washing facility with water.
What is the ministries’ contribution to ‘WASH in Health’?
The ministry realizes a lot needs to be done to change the situation, and we should approach it programmatically. So under the second phase of the National Sanitation Campaign, we will focus on extension of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services to health facilities.
We have a number of environmental officers who are conversant in advising on the several components related to WASH; these services will be extended to institutions and especially focus on behavioral change communication.
The ministry usually does not support building latrines, e.g. building a latrine is the responsibility of the households in a community. However, this is different for institutions like health facilities. The ministry position is that an important intervention is to reach health facilities, the same as we did in schools and consider the health facilities as change agents.
So under the new phase of the National Sanitation Campaign we have to reach the health facilities: rehabilitating existing WASH infrastructure or build new ones. Also, future health facilities to be build must include WASH facilities, as they are equally important as the other services to be rendered by the health facilities.
What would your dream be for WASH in health care in the future?
It is the same as the vision and mission of our ministry: we want to see healthy communities of Tanzanians through the provision of adequate, equitable and functional WASH infrastructure at health facilities in order to deliver good quality health care.
We anticipate that if we join hands with different partners, with different stakeholders it can be done. We have seen it with WASH in schools, most of the schools have WASH facilities now.
We realize that the efforts of Simavi-Mkaji in Dodoma Region, and also WaterAid and UNICEF in other parts of the country, are changing the situation towards achieving this dream. We are convinced these efforts will spill over to other places in Tanzania.