A new World Health Organization (WHO) report has found that 35% of healthcare facilities in low- and middle-income countries do not have water and soap for hand washing.
The report reviewed water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services in more than 66,000 healthcare facilities, including dental surgery clinics, in 54 countries. In addition to the lack of basic hand-washing materials, it also found that 38% of services lack even rudimentary levels of water and 19% lack sanitation.
A number of areas require urgent action, according to WHO, which will work with UNICEF, the governments, and other partners to develop a plan to address the most pressing needs for these clinics.
Other key findings:
- All major initiatives to improve global health depend on access to basic WASH services in communities and healthcare facilities.
- Large disparities in WASH services in healthcare facilities exist between and within countries. Some districts within a country can have coverage estimates that are two or three times lower than the national average.
- Primary healthcare facilities have significantly lower WASH coverage than hospitals.
- Without WASH, the ability of healthcare workers to carry out proper infection prevention and control measures is greatly compromised.
- Improving services and WASH behaviors in healthcare facilities is achievable and has positive ripple effects both for increased use of these facilities and on WASH practices in homes.
- Countries in Africa are most represented, while those in Asia are the least represented. This lack of data is a barrier toward better understanding and addressing WASH needs in healthcare facilities.