Lack of hygiene practices in the country’s health facilities are putting lives of patients at risk with 20 percent of women giving birth through caesarean section being subjected to various infections and 15 percent of all patients admitted to health care facilities reportedly acquiring an infection during their stay in hospital.
This has been attributed to lack of adequate hand washing facilities with revelations indicating that 35 percent of the country’s health care facilities (about 167 health facilities) do not have adequate water supply.
Making the revelation in Blantyre on Wednesday when he launched the clean campaign by WaterAid Malawi, Minister of Health and Population Atupele Muluzi conceded that most health care facilities do not have adequate hand washing facilities which include alcohol rub.
He emphasised the need for the country to invest more in Water and Sanitation Hygiene (Wash) as well as Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) adding that the two serve as a foundation for the provision of effective healthcare and the demonstration of good hygiene practices for all communities.
“It is disheartening that some of our health care facilities are unable to provide effective water and sanitary health or Wash services. Malawi needs a holistic approach in addressing these challenges.
“What is clear is that we really need to address some rooted social norms with effective behaviour change activities, I hope that in the near future we can establish a centre of excellence that will focus on behaviour change,” said Muluzi.
According to Muluzi, universal access to clean water and effective sanitation facilities would reduce the burden on the country’s health sector by up to 50 percent.
WaterAid Malawi country director Mercy Masoo said the country needs to invest more in infection prevention other than treating as the latter is quite expensive.
She said the campaign aims at promoting behaviour change in terms of hygiene behaviour through reaching out to various communities, capacity building of health workers and community volunteers.
Said Masoo: “Lack of enabling facilities for people to practice good hygiene, issues of altitude and lack of awareness on hygiene is contributing to poor hygiene in the country. It becomes very difficult for health workers to practice good hygiene including washing hands regularly if facilities have no water. It is even disappointing to note that some health facilities do not have adequate toilets”
According to Masoo, the campaign will be implemented in three target districts of Kasungu, Nkhotakota and Machinga but will be extended to other districts in the near future.
She hinted that on its own, WaterAid Malawi plans to provide water and other sanitation services to 75 health facilities in five years to improve the situation. So far, it has already reached out to 16 health facilities.
The event was conducted under the theme: “Hygiene promotion, Health Worker Champion”.