WaterAid Liberia has implored Liberian authorities and the Ministry of Health to prioritize basic hygiene for healthcare facilities as required under the COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan.
The demand comes as health ministers from around the world participate in the 2021 World Health Assembly amid international efforts to bring the virus under control.
Two years ago, at the World Health Assembly, 194 members unanimously agreed to ensure universal access to water, sanitation, and hygiene in all hospitals and other health facilities. Since then, the pandemic has highlighted just how vital these basic services are in controlling the infection. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, has described soap and water as akin to personal protective equipment and fundamental for stopping the spread of COVID-19.
But new figure expected to be presented to the World Health Assembly this week, shows that in Liberia, 96% of facilities have toilets. However, only a shocking 3% of health care facilities have basic sanitation services (access to facilities for safe disposal of human waste, and having the ability to maintain hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection, industrial/hazardous waste management, and wastewater treatment and disposal). Furthermore, 36% of healthcare facilities in the country have handwashing facilities at the point of care, with water and soap at toilets. Not all, as much as 41% of health facilities in the country does not segregate and treat waste before disposing of it.
When the World Health Assembly delegations last met in person, they passed a resolution to ensure that all healthcare facilities had water, sanitation and hygiene. And yet, the data shows that across the world, almost 2 billion people depend on healthcare facilities without basic water services, putting them at greater risk of catching COVID-19 and other deadly diseases.
Last December, the WHO estimated that to bring clean water, handwashing facilities and decent toilets to the health care centres in the poorest countries would cost just $3.6 billion – which equates to around an hour and a half’s worth of what the whole world spent in a year on the Covid-19 response.
Mary Kwiwalazu, Head Nurse and Officer-in-charge of the Goba’s Town Clinic in Todee District, Liberia said, when pregnant women show up during labour, especially at night, the midwives go in search of water at the stream, walking between 25 to 35 minutes. “It also delays the care and urgent attention pregnant women need at that moment. Thankfully, WaterAid Liberia’s intervention ensured that water and toilet facilities were provided at this clinic” – Mary. Meanwhile, over 50% of healthcare facilities in Liberia currently lack a clean, safe and hygienic environment – putting millions of people in the county at risk every day, who go to work or seek care without these fundamental services, the 2020 Global Progress Report on water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities on Liberia indicates.
In the wake of this, the research notes that money spent on water, sanitation and hygiene within healthcare facilities is a ‘best buy’ for any country, producing a fifty per cent return on investment. It helps to:
- Slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance – so-called Superbugs;
- Prevent the spread of hospital infections;
- and reduce maternal and new-born deaths
Helen Hamilton, Senior Policy Analyst, WaterAid, said:
“Globally, a staggering 1.8 billion people are at greater risk of contracting disease because they use or work in a healthcare facility that lacks basic water services.”
“In the twenty-first century, this simply shouldn’t be and needn’t be the case. It would take just 30 US cents a year to make sure every health centre and hospital in the poorest countries had a reliable water supply, working toilets and good hygiene.”
“This could save the lives of one million new mothers and babies from dying of infection. And it would even help to tackle the surge of antibiotic-resistant infections seen by many as a looming global threat.”
Chuchu K. Selma, Country Director, WaterAid Liberia said:
“Two years ago, at the World Health Assembly, global leaders resolved to prioritise water, sanitation and hygiene in all healthcare facilities. Now is the time for them to make good on those promises.”
“Trying to create a robust pandemic preparedness and response plan without ensuring that every health care facility in Liberia and elsewhere has clean water and the ability to keep its patients, frontline health workers and premises clean is like building a fortress with a gaping hole where the door should be. Unless our government and global leaders wake up to this, more lives will be needlessly lost.”
For more information, contact:
Zazay T. Kolubah, Communications and Advocacy Manager
Cells: +231 (0) 886 814640; +231 (0) 776361417
Sidua, Hor, Senior Advocacy Manager
Office Phone +231 (0) 880685378
Mobile: +231 (0) 880882179 / WhatsApp +233 (0)207708938
Notes to Editors:
WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 27 million people with clean water and 27 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid.
- 785 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.
- 2 billion people in the world – almost one in four – do not have a decent toilet of their own.
- Around 310,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s around 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.
- Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.
- Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.
 Prüss-Ustün et al. (2014) and The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2018)
 World Health Organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage