By Asmau Ahmad
WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, has called for holistic approach to improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) on the continent.
She made the call in a message to commemorate the World Hand Hygiene Day marked every May 5. The theme for 2022 is: “Unite for Safety – Clean Your Hands.”
She said the theme focused specifically on health facilities with a call to health workers, patients and family members to unite on hand hygiene to attain a culture of high quality and safe care.
Moeti said that lack of proper hygiene was direr in Africa, where half of all health care facilities do not have basic water access.
“WHO has developed and disseminated hand hygiene in healthcare guidelines to member states and facilities. We also offer technical guidance in the implementation of monitoring tools in countries in the African Region,” she said.
She said that the depth of the challenge of prioritising hand hygiene as an infection prevention and control measure was already highlighted by WHO/UNICEF global estimates.
The estimates revealed that one in every four health facilities worldwide lacked the most basic access to water supplies.
She noted also that one in every three of the facilities did not have hand hygiene facilities at point of care.
Moeti also said there was need to improve collaboration between public and private sectors on investment which remained crucial to expanding and maintaining infrastructure for safe WASH in Africa.
“More financial resources are required in most African countries to achieve universal access to WASH services by 2030.
“Research on the socio-economic burden of healthcare-associated infections in African countries is also needed,” the WHO regional director said.
Moeti stressed that evidence showed that effective infection prevention and control measures, including hand hygiene, could reduce health care-associated infections by more than half.
She said it would also boost new-born survival rates by as much as 44 per cent.
According to her frequent hand washing also plays a significant role in the fight against epidemics and pandemics.
She said WHO in the African Region has supported the improvement of hand hygiene practices through awareness campaigns in member states.
WHO also trained more than 200,000 health workers since the onset of COVID-19, and provided WASH infrastructural support to multiple facilities, she said.
“Technical guidance on local production of Alcohol-Based Hand Rub (ABHR), and scaling up existing efforts, has been conducted in member states including Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda,” Moeti said.
“Hence good practices on hand hygiene need to be expanded and sustained to build a culture of compliance to ultimately improve the well-being of all people in the African Region,’’ she added.
The World Hand Hygiene Day is set aside to foster and support a culture of hand washing, while raising awareness and understanding about the effective and affordable ways to help prevent the spread of diseases.