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Clean, safe water key to health for all – Chilufya

THERE can never be health for all without access to clean and safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities, says health minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya.

During the global meeting on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in health care facilities under the theme “From resolution to revolution”, Dr Chilufya in a speech read for him by Ministry of Health permanent secretary Kennedy Malama, said globally health care facilities particularly in low to middle income countries face a daunting challenge of inadequate or lack of water, sanitation and hygiene services.

He said it was estimated that globally 896 million people use health care facilities lacking water services and 1.5 billion use health care facilities without sanitation services.

“This is indeed worrisome and should not be allowed to continue! The WHO report 2015 on water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities further, stated that 38 per cent of health care facilities do not provide users access to an improved water source, 19 per cent do not provide improved sanitation, and 35 per cent do not have soap for hand washing. Provision of water, was reported to be lowest in the African region, with 42 per cent of all health care facilities lacking an improved source of water on-site or nearby,” he said.

Dr Chilufya said this year, the Ministry of Health with support from World Health Organisation, conducted a rapid assessment of WASH services in health facilities from six provinces and it was found that improved water supply stands at 69 per cent, improved sanitation at 53 per cent, health care waste management at 64 per cent, hand hygiene at 62 per cent, cleanliness and disinfection at 49 per cent.

He said the consequences of inadequate or lack of WASH services in health care facilities were enormous.

Dr Chilufya said health care associated infections affect hundreds of millions of patients every year, with at least 15 per cent of patients estimated to develop one or more infections during a hospital stay.

He said the burden of infections was especially high in newborns while sepsis and other severe infections in various service areas of the health care facilities were major killers and estimated to cause 430,000 deaths globally every year.

Dr Chilufya said it was clear that progress towards reduction of maternal, newborn, child and adolescent morbidity and mortality could not be accelerated without smart investment in WASH services in health care facilities.

“Zambia therefore, commends the Secretary General of the United Nations for the global call to action; calling for prioritisation and amplification of the significance of WASH services in all health care facilities and the World Health Organisation for the 2019 resolution on wash services in health care facilities,” he said.

Dr Chilufya said it was imperative for all member states, cooperating partners, non-governmental organisations, civil society, leaders at all levels, the academia, research institutions, the media and other stakeholders to prioritise investment in WASH services in health care facilities to significantly improve the health and well-being of the people and accelerate progress towards the attainment of the health related Sustainable Development Goals.

He said Zambia remained indebted to the leadership of the WHO, UNICEF and the whole United Nations system in the country, region and globally.

Dr Chilufya said the government takes the health and well-being of the people as a prerequisite to socio-economic development as articulated in the Vision 2030, the 7th National Development Plan, the National Health Strategic Plan.

He said Zambia’s 7th National Development Plan prioritised adequate safe water, sanitation and hygiene as high impact services to accelerate human capital development.

“Guided by our National Health Strategic 2017-2021, Zambia has recruited 21,000 health workers since 2017 working at various levels of the health care system. We are in the process of implementing the national health insurance scheme which is expected to bring extra revenue to support health programmes including wash services,” Dr Chilufya said. “We are modernising our hospitals, constructing 650 health posts and 108 mini hospitals in which WASH services have been prioritised…We have developed antimicrobial resistance action plan 2017-2027 which is anchored on the one health approach, catalyzing our efforts in improving wash services. Further, Zambia developed and is implementing the health national adaptation strategy 2017-2021 in response to climate change whose ramifications have not spared wash services in health care facilities. We also expect our national action plan for public health security to leverage resources for WASH services in the country.”

Dr Chilufya said he was convinced that the approach would accelerate the attainment of the global targets on WASH, of ensuring that 60 per cent of all health care facilities globally have at least basic WASH services by 2022; 80 per cent by 2025, and 100 per cent by 2030.

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