GENEVA, April 3 (Xinhua) -- One in four health care facilities around the world lacks basic water services, impacting over two billion people and raising the risk of infection, antimicrobial resistance and poor-quality care, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF jointly warned on Wednesday.
In their latest report entitled "Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene" (JMP), the WHO and UNICEF assess water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in health care facilities worldwide.
Besides basic water services, the report also finds that one in five health care facilities has no sanitation service, impacting 1.5 billion people, and that many health centers lack basic facilities for hand hygiene, and safe segregation and disposal of health care waste.
These services are believed to be crucial to preventing infections, reducing the risk of antimicrobial resistance and providing quality care, particularly for safe childbirth.
"When a baby is born in a health facility without adequate water, sanitation and hygiene, the risk of infection and death for both the mother and the baby is high," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "Every birth should be supported by a safe pair of hands, washed with soap and water, using sterile equipment, in a clean environment."
In another report, WHO and UNICEF researchers revealed that more than one million deaths each year are associated with unclean births, where infections account for 26 percent of neonatal deaths and 11 percent of maternal mortality.
To cope with the situation, governments will debate a resolution on water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities at the 2019 World Health Assembly, to be held in May. Such a resolution was unanimously approved by the WHO Executive Board earlier this year.
The WHO and UNICEF have recommended that governments establish national plans and targets, improve infrastructure and maintenance, and engage communities, so as to improve the WASH services in health care facilities.
These actions and resulting improvements in WASH services can yield dramatic returns on investment in the form of improved maternal and newborn health, preventing antimicrobial resistance, stopping disease outbreaks and improving quality of care.
According to UNICEF, 7,000 newborn babies died every day in 2017, mostly from preventable and treatable conditions, including infections like sepsis. UNICEF is calling for governments and authorities to make sure that every mother and baby has access to affordable, quality care.