WHO & UNICEF Call For Better Hygiene & More Affordable Water & Sanitation To Stop The Spread Of Deadly Infections

Low-and-middle-income countries have made significantly less progress than high-income countries in implementing hand hygiene and infection prevention programmes that can stop deadly diseases, from diarrhoea to COVID-19, according to a recent A World Health Organization survey of 88 countries. 

And one in four health care facilities in poorer countries do not have basic water services and one in three lacks hand hygiene supplies, said WHO, marking World Hygiene Day on Wednesday.  

Meanwhile, universal access to safe drinking waters, sanitation and hygiene, are unlikely to be met unless affordability is addressed and monitored – according to a new report by UNICEF and WHO, released on World Hygiene Day.  Improved monitoring of “affordability” indicators will ultimately allow governments and the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector to more effectively target support and to make WASH services affordable to all.  

Good Hygiene Critical to Stopping COVID-10 – as well as Other Deadly Diseases

Good hygiene practices remain  a “serious challenge” at any time, but more so when the world is fighting the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, WHO said in a statement.     

“COVID-19 has dramatically demonstrated just how important good hand hygiene practices are in reducing the risk of transmission, when used as part of a comprehensive package of preventative measures.

“For example, in some low-and-middle-income countries, only one in 10 have workers who practice proper hand hygiene while caring for patients at high-risk of health care susceptibility infection in intensive care units.  While, also in high-income countries, hand hygiene compliance rarely exceeds 60% to 70%.”

Moreover, few low-income countries have the capacity to monitor Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) effectively.  A new WHO online monitoring portal will help countries identify and address gaps. The first ever IPC monitoring portal is a protected online platform for countries to collect data in a standardised and user-friendly manner and download their situation analysis following data entry along with advice on areas and approaches for improvement. 

Infections acquired in health care settings like hospitals and clinics affect millions of patients and health workers globally. Europe alone records nearly nine million infections yearly, said the U.N. agency. 

But  highly effective and low-cost hand hygiene strategies are available that could reduce these infections by half.

“Half these infections can be avoided by implementing effective IPC practices and programmes, including hand hygiene improvement strategies. Such strategies can also prevent 3 out of 4 the AMR-related deaths that occur in health care facilities.”

The organisation has also declared 2021 the “Year of the Health and Care Worker”, and in relation to that, evidence has shown that appropriate hand hygiene practices reduce infections during health care delivery:

“So, engaging different health professionals, as well as patients and everyone in the society in World Hand Hygiene Day 2021 is critical also to supporting the “Year of Health and Care Workers”.

Image Credits: Pixabay.

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