Lack of water puts 1.8 billion people at heightened risk of COVID-19 infection

'Working in a healthcare facility without water, sanitation and hygiene is akin to sending nurses and doctors to work without personal protective equipment'.


(Representational Image Pexels)

Lack of water is a major problem in ensuring hygienic sanitation and healthcare. Due to lack of basic water services in healthcare facilities, around 1.8 billion people worldwide are at heightened risk of COVID-19 and other diseases, warned WHO and UNICEF. 

"Working in a healthcare facility without water, sanitation and hygiene is akin to sending nurses and doctors to work without personal protective equipment," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Pointing out that there are major gaps to overcome in the struggle to provide healthcare, Ghebreyesus said, “Water supply, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities are fundamental to stopping COVID-19. But there are still major gaps to overcome, particularly in the least developed countries.” 

WHO said in a release that the report, Fundamentals first: Universal water, sanitation, and hygiene services in health care facilities for safe, quality care, comes as COVID-19 is exposing key vulnerabilities within health systems, including inadequate infection prevention and control.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are vital to the safety of health workers and patients yet the provision of these services is not prioritized. Worldwide, 1 in 4 health care facilities has no water services, 1 in 3 does not have access to hand hygiene where care is provided, 1 in 10 has no sanitation services*, and 1 in 3 does not segregate waste safely.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore also pointed out the danger posed to health workers and patients.

“Sending healthcare workers and people in need of treatment to facilities without clean water, safe toilets or even soap puts their lives at risk,” Fore said, adding, “This was certainly true before the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year has made these disparities impossible to ignore. As we reimagine and shape a post-COVID world, making sure we are sending children and mothers to places of care equipped with adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services is not merely something we can and should do. It is an absolute must.”

The situation is worst of all in the world’s 47 Least Developed Countries (LDCs): 1 in 2 health care facilities does not have basic drinking water, 1 in 4 health care facilities has no hand hygiene facilities at points of care; and 3 in 5 lack basic sanitation services, the WHO stated. 

First Published:Dec. 15, 2020, 2:22 p.m.

Leave a comment