FG Launches Policy Guidelines for Water, Sanitation, Hygiene in Healthcare Facilities

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Federal government has unveiled a policy document known as the National Guidelines for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Healthcare facilities meant improve sanitary conditions and check spread of infectious diseases.

It said the move is in acknowledgement of the fact that lack of clean water and good sanitary condition in healthcare facilities were responsible for the spread of some infectious diseases.

The government lamented that despite the hand washing campaign promoted as one of the critical lines of defence against the spread of the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus disease, 95 percent of all healthcare centres in Nigeria are presently at risk of becoming epicentres of the disease due to lack of access to combined water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Speaking during the launch of the document on Thursday in Abuja, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said that clean water is a basic necessity for ensuring good healthcare for citizens.

He said the role of water, sanitation and hygiene services in preventing the spread of infections and promoting good health in the healthcare facilities is the focal point of the document.

“Functional Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facility/system has been recognized as an effective strategy for the prevention and control of diseases most especially epidemic prone diseases,”

According to Ehanire, WASH services is a strategy that reduces the burden of case management for infectious diseases and help public health managers and decision-makers to effectively prevent, contain and manage disease outbreaks.

“Without access to adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services, healthcare centers in Nigeria would be ill equipped to manage even the COVID-19 crisis and other Health associated infections, while the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country would be left to face the pandemic alone, not even the most basic defense – clean water and a bar of soap,” he said.

The acronym given by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF  and adopted by Nigeria  as an initiative used in promoting water, sanitation and hygiene practice in healthcare facilities is known as WASH.

According to WHO, there are eight practical steps countries  can take to improve on WASH in healthcare facilities. They include; conduct of situation analysis, assessment, setting targets and defining national roadmap.

A report contained in the new policy guideline showed that WASH sector in Nigeria is poor with only 9 percent of the population having access to complete basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.

It said that, “26 percent of health facilities do not have toilets while only 20 percent of them have basic hand hygiene and only 4 percent of health facilities have combine basic water supply, sanitation and hygiene services in the country”.

WHO representative in Nigeria, Walter Kazardi Mulumbo said that every healthcare centre is supposed have a team that will monitor and ensure good sanitation and hygiene.

On his part, the Director Food and Health Services Department in the Federal Ministry of Health, said she was optimistic that the objective of the national guidelines will strengthen the  adequate provision of water, sanitation and hygiene services in the healthcare facilities in Nigeria.

She also said that initiative will support and guarantee adequate healthcare service delivery in Nigeria and in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 6) Access to Clean Water and Sanitation and (SDG3) Good Health and Wellbeing.

According to her, the implementation of the  guidelines in healthcare centres and homes will definitely bring changes in the traditional practice and help in achieving global best practices in WASH.

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