REPORTS about some of our health institutions operating without water and proper sanitation have become common and are so worrying.
It is a sad situation because having access to clean and proper sanitation is critical in the provision of good quality health care and even in the management of diseases.
In fact, in our view, having access to clean water and good sanitation should always be regarded as an important component of disease prevention and treatment.
The absence of water and proper sanitation in health institutions does not only put patients at greater risk of contracting other infections but endangers the lives of the medical staff as well.
Studies have clearly shown that lack of access to water and sanitation is one of the major causes of infectious and killer diseases like diarrhoea and others, particularly in children.
Our health staff understand this, of course, and clearly also know that you can never operate any health care institution without having access to clean water and good sanitation because then you defeat the whole purpose of providing health services.
Provision of health services is about promoting good health among the people and it is always almost impossible for anyone to attain that without first ensuring that there is access to clean water and good sanitation.
We can learn from Ethiopia whose health care campaign is almost entirely centered on reducing infections in health-care settings, improved water, sanitation, staff training, clinical waste management and facility auditing.
The most embarrassing situation for most of our health care facilities is that, instead of providing safe treatment to people, they serve as foci for infections, and patients seeking treatment instead fall ill and may die, simply because of lack of the most basic requirements for good hygiene – safe, reliable water and adequate sanitation.
It is also a known fact that pregnant mothers rely on a safe environment that, at a minimum, does not place them or their babies at risk, and it is basically all about having access to water and proper sanitation.
Infections cause nearly half of late neonatal deaths many of which are attributable to inadequate hygiene.
The same conditions contribute to major disease outbreaks, such as cholera, as well as the spread of antimicrobial resistance, another major public health threat.
Safe water and adequate sanitation are fundamental to a healthy and dignified life.
Improved hygiene in our health-care facilities, is an urgent requirement and a strategic investment we need to make, as a nation, to improve maternal and child health, infection prevention, outbreak response and strengthening the general health care systems.
First, policies and standards should be established and progress tracked because experience has shown that, countries with national plans and targets, have better water and sanitation in their health-care facilities.
Monitoring programmes for our health care facilities need to ensure that our hospital and clinics have access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
Plans for infections prevention and control programmes should also be based on ensuring that all our health facilities have access to safe water and proper sanitation.
Having leadership in the health care alone is insufficient, but ensuring that hygiene aspects, such as hand washing by health-care providers, having safe, reliable water supplies and functional sanitation systems in health facilities, are prioritized.
We can indeed make progress, as a nation, in this area if we work together, and using the expertise of health professionals, the local and central governments and the civil society, to ensure that our health facilities are made safe once again by ensuring that they are granted access to water and sanitation.