To cut maternal, child deaths, health facilities must have water

Angela Onwuzoo

The World Health Organisation, says investing in water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities will not only prevent the spread of infectious diseases but will also reduce preventable maternal and newborn deaths.

WHO in a Tweet posted on its official Twitter handle @WHO stresses that investing in WASH in health facilities is a “best buy” producing a 50 percent return on investment.

The global health agency said, “Investment in WASH will improve the safety of deliveries and preventable maternal and newborn deaths.

“WASH will improve quality of care and prevent the spread of hospital infections.

“WASH save money and slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Investing in WASH will also prevent the spread of COVID-19, cholera and other deadly infectious diseases”.

The WHO, however, decried the lack of basic water services in health care facilities which it lamented was putting millions of people at risk across the globe.

According to the UN health agency, one in four healthcare facilities lacks basic water services.

It noted, “The situation is worst in the health care facilities of the world’s least developed countries.

“Seventy per cent have no basic health care waste management system; 50 per cent have no basic water services while 20 per cent lack sanitation services.”

WHO and UNICEF had in a new report titled, “Fundamentals first: Universal water, sanitation, and hygiene services in health care facilities for safe, quality care”, warned that lack of water puts health care workers and patients at higher risk of COVID-19 infection.

The report notes that WASH services are especially critical for vulnerable populations, including pregnant mothers, newborns and children.

“Improving WASH services in health care facilities is particularly important around childbirth when far too many mothers and newborns suffer and die, including from preventable conditions like sepsis.

“Better WASH services could save a million pregnant women and newborns’ lives and reduce still-births”, the report said.

The report revealed that around 1.8 billion people are at heightened risk of COVID-19 and other diseases because they use or work in health care facilities without basic water services.

According to WHO, maternal mortality is unacceptably high.

It added, “About 295 000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth in 2017. The vast majority of these deaths (94 per cent) occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented.

“Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia accounted for approximately 86 per cent (254 000) of the estimated global maternal deaths in 2017.”

The international health agency noted that infection after childbirth could be eliminated if good hygiene was practiced.

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