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NEW YORK, Jan. 25, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Urgent action is needed to ensure all hospitals and health centers around the world have access to clean water, decent sanitation, and good hygiene, WaterAid has said in response to a new study that reveals only half of healthcare facilities in low- and middle-income countries have access to piped water.

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The study–by Ryan Cronk and Jamie Bartram at the Water Institute of the University of North Carolina and published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health–examines the environmental conditions in nearly 130,000 healthcare facilities across 78 low- and middle-income countries, offering the most comprehensive analysis to date of the inequalities faced by developing nations in the provision of adequate healthcare.

According to the findings, half (50%) of healthcare facilities lack access to piped water while a third (33%) are without access to improved toilets, and even more (39%) do not have facilities for washing hands with soap. A sampling of six countries showed only 2% of facilities have four of the essentials needed for the delivery of quality healthcare: piped water, improved toilets, decent handwashing facilities and adequate waste management services.

WaterAid warns that without these basic facilities–the cornerstones of quality and safe healthcare–patients and health workers are at greater risk of infection, disease and even death, with new mothers and their babies at particular risk. Every minute, a newborn dies from infections caused by a lack of safe water and an unclean environment, despite the links between poor hygiene practices, dirty water and infant mortality being in the public consciousness for over 150 years. 

In Tanzania, only 32 percent of healthcare facilities have access to the most basic level of water access, only seven percent have piped sewer sanitation services and over a third (34%) lack handwashing facilities.

In Geita, a remote region in northern Tanzania, water and sanitation access is the worst in the country. Working in a clinic here can mean a mile-long walk to a dirty riverbed to collect water for cleaning and sterilizing equipment or paying the equivalent of a half-day’s wages to purchase water of poor quality from a street vendor.

For 39-year-old Salome, giving birth in such dire conditions resulted in tragedy when her baby girl, Margaret, died from a suspected infection. She was just three days old.

Salome explains:

“The baby started to have a very high fever. So we went to get gripe water and paracetamol syrup, but it didn't work. The fever continued to be very high. The next day we brought the baby back to the health center. They took a blood and urine sample but could find nothing wrong.

"The midwife that delivered, the doctor and lab technician came to discuss what to do because the fever would not come down. He was given glucose syrup and I was given a prescription. My husband took it to town to get it and I went to the houses nearby to wait. But before my husband got back with the medicine, the baby died. The baby was so hot it took three hours to cool down after it died.”

WaterAid Senior Policy Analyst for Health and Hygiene, Helen Hamilton said:

“This research brings into sharp focus the terrible inequalities experienced by healthcare professionals and their patients in hospitals and healthcare centers in some of the world’s poorest communities. There is a very real human cost to these inequalities. The World Health Organization estimates that every minute a newborn in the developing world dies from infections related to a lack of clean water and an unclean environment.

“This is simply unacceptable. Through Global Goal 6, the international community promised to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to safe water and sanitation and through Goal 3 promised Universal Health Coverage–both by 2030. The two are intrinsically linked and Goal 3 cannot be achieved without ensuring Goal 6 is achieved. These promises will prove empty unless the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities are acted on now. With Goal 6 – the commitment to ensure water and sanitation access for all – due for review in just six months, the pressure is on for world leaders to demonstrate how they are going to meet this promise to the world’s poor.”

ENDS

For more information, please contact:

In the US: Emily Haile, Senior Communications and Media Manager, ehaile@wateraidamerica.org or (443) 742-2445 or Brittany Galvan, brittany@marketingmaven.com or (310) 405-0346.

Notes to Editors:
WaterAid

WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international nonprofit works in 34 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalized people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit http://www.wateraid.org/us, follow @WaterAidAmerica on Twitter, or find WaterAid on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/WateraidAmerica.

  • 844 million people in the world–one in nine–do not have clean water close to home.1
  • 2.3 billion people in the world–almost one in three–do not have a decent toilet of their own.2
  • Around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrheal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's almost 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.3
  • Every $1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of $4 in increased productivity.4
  • Just $25 can provide one person with clean water.5
  • To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database www.WASHwatch.org 

1 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

2 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

3 washwatch.org

4 World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage

5 www.wateraid.org