Aug 30, 2022 - Health

Half of health care facilities around the world lack basic hygiene, WHO finds

Picture of World Health Organization logo

The World Health Organization emblem is seen at the entrance of the agency's headquarters in Geneva. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Half of the health care facilities around the world lack basic hygiene services like water and soap, the World Health Organization and UNICEF said in a new report out Tuesday.

Why it matters: Poor hygiene conditions put the approximately 3.85 billion people who depend on the facilities at greater risk of disease and infection, WHO and UNICEF said.

  • The report says that unsanitary environments and health workers play a "significant" role in pathogen transmission and could prolong health crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

What they're saying: "Hygiene facilities and practices in health care settings are non-negotiable. Their improvement is essential to pandemic recovery, prevention and preparedness,” said Maria Neira, director of WHO's Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.

  • Hospitals and clinics without safe water and basic hygiene are "a potential death trap for pregnant mothers, newborns, and children," said Kelly Ann Naylor, a UNICEF director overseeing risk reduction. She noted around 670,000 newborns lose their lives to sepsis each year.

Details: WHO's and UNICEF's Joint Monitoring Program reports country, regional and global estimates of progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

  • The report on hygiene has data covering 40 countries and representing 35% of the world's population. This is an increase from 21 counties in 2020.

By the numbers: Only 51% of health care centers had hygiene facilities at points of care and hand washing facilities, meaning the other half did not meet WHO's critera for basic hygiene services.

  • 11% of health care facilities globally — which serve around 688 million people — don't have any hygiene services.
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