According to the 2014 Hospital and Health Centre IV census done in Uganda, out of 321 delivery rooms only 91 had running water while out of the 284 operating theatres 84 had running water.
By Ceaser Kimbugwe
October 15, is Global handwashing day. It is an annual campaign event dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles through washing hands with soap and clean water. This directly echoes the health situation of any country such as Uganda, where the under-five mortality rate remains high, with one out of five babies not living beyond their first month due to infections linked to dirty water and unhygienic equipment and conditions at the place of birth.
It is therefore important for this year’s Global Handwashing Day, to draw our attention to what improving water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities would mean to Uganda where many hospitals and clinics lack even rudimentary access to water.
According to the 2014 Hospital and Health Centre IV census done in Uganda, out of 321 delivery rooms only 91 had running water while out of the 284 operating theatres 84 had running water. Similarly, out of 321 delivery rooms only 87 had soap for hand washing and out of 284 operating theatres 93 had handwashing soap.
This puts patients and healthcare workers at unacceptable risk of infection, especially the most vulnerable members of society – new mothers and newborns.
Health care-associated infections are a major burden on health care systems world-wide. A 2011 global systematic review of health-care associated infections in developing countries found that an estimated 15% of patients develop one or more infections including: diarrhoeal disease, wound infections and urinary tract infections during their stay in a health care facility.
In a situation where the burden of meeting healthcare service provision is largely borne by individuals, increased access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities and households would contribute to saving a core percentage of the family income for other basic needs such as food, education and housing, as a result of the reduced disease burden.
Effective healthcare can be fully achieved through prevention of (re)infections caused by poor hygiene at the health service centers. Clean, adequate water and good sanitation that in turn foster good hygiene through practices such as handwashing with soap are absolutely essential for a healthy and wealthy population.
It is urgent that political priority and more funding be devoted to ensure that all health centres are equipped with improved water sanitation and hygiene including handwashing facilities; this will not only improve health and save new-born lives but will also curb the unnecessary and unacceptable risk that patients and health workers are continually exposed to while at the health service center.
Additionally, ensuring good hygiene practises through handwashing with soap especially at the health centre is a sure way for the Government of Uganda to make good on their promise of universal access to safe water sanitation and hygiene by 2030, implied through the commitment made by signing the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
The writer is a Policy Advocacy specialist at WaterAid Uganda
To join WaterAid’s health campaign, to sign the petition or to organise an event, please see www.wateraid.org/healthprofessionals.