Awka – Four out of every five health centres in Nigeria is still operating without soap or water, two years after global promise.
WaterAid Nigeria, an agency intervening in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Sector disclosed this in a report made available to TNC correspondent on Thursday in Abuja.
WaterAid Nigeria is asking the country’s Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, to prioritise basic hygiene for health care facilities as part of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan.
The demand comes as health ministers from around the world prepare to attend the World Health Assembly, against a backdrop of international struggles to bring the virus under control.
Two years ago, the World Health Assembly’s 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 infection.
However, in Nigeria, about 17% of health care centres do not have access to a water source, and four in five health care facilities (80%), still lack somewhere to wash hands with soap to protect patients and healthcare workers from catching and spreading deadly infections.
National data shows that 26% of health care facilities do not have access to toilets on site and only 4% of health care facilities in Nigeria have access to combined water, sanitation, and hygiene services.
In her statement, Evelyn Mere, Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria said sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene is a cost-effective measure that guarantees the fight against COVID-19 and future pandemics. This realises lasting health outcomes in Nigeria, enabling people to reach their full potential.
“Two years ago, at the World Health Assembly, global leaders resolved to prioritise water, sanitation and hygiene in all health care facilities. Now is the time for them to make good on those promises.
“Millions of people are at risk of contracting diseases because they use or work in a health care facility which lacks basic water services. In the twenty first century this simply shouldn’t be and needn’t be the case. The cost of investing to ensure every health centre and hospital in the poorest countries has a reliable water supply, working toilets and good hygiene may seem high but the benefits of such an investment far outweigh the cost.
“Trying to create a robust pandemic preparedness and response plan without ensuring that every health care centre 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 leaders wake up to this, more lives will be needlessly lost,” she said.