Clean water, safe sanitation and good hygiene (WASH) in healthcare facilities are fundamental to infection prevention and control (IPC) and the delivery of safe, dignified, quality healthcare for all. Yet alarming gaps exist in the provision of WASH in healthcare facilities across many countries.

Why is WASH in healthcare facilities important?

A hygienic environment with adequate sanitation; good hygiene practices by healthcare staff, patients and their caregivers; and access to clean water are essential to patient and staff safety and quality of care. The effect of the lack of WASH in healthcare facilities is devastating, contributing to millions of infection-related deaths each year. Infections can also result in prolonged hospital stays, long-term disability, increased antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and increased healthcare costs for families and health systems. 

Both inadequate WASH and high infection rates can also damage patients’ trust in health systems and their willingness to seek care, and can reduce health workers' safety, morale, attendance and retention.

We contribute to improving inclusive, sustainable WASH in healthcare facilities through all aspects of our work – policy, advocacy, direct services, training, research and behaviour change delivery. We underpin all of this with a systems strengthening and empowerment approach, so healthcare workers, their patients and communities benefit from sustainable services. Explore just some of our work in healthcare facilities across the world in the map below.

 

Strong health systems need strong government leadership, skilled personnel, informed and empowered citizens, gender and social inclusion, good sector governance and accountability, clear and focussed policies, sustainable financing and access to health information systems to support universal health coverage goals of ensuring safe services reach all. Improving WASH and broader environmental health conditions therefore demands a system-wide, holistic approach.

Ensuring quality service delivery and behaviour change have longevity requires working through all elements of the health system. To strengthen the ability of health systems to improve and embed WASH, we model quality delivery of services and behaviour-change strategies so they can be scaled up; support the development and implementation of policies; empower and build the capacity of workers; and advocate improvements.

Over the past five years, WASH in healthcare facilities has gathered momentum on the global health and development agenda. A huge milestone was the adoption of a World Health Assembly resolution on WASH in healthcare facilities in May 2019 – an effort we substantially influenced and drove in support of member states. The resolution is a specific, public commitment by all the world’s health ministers to invest in action on WASH in healthcare facilities.
 

Transforming health systems

Explore snapshots of where our work with government and health ministries to improve WASH in healthcare facilities has shown successful change. This report outlines the health systems strengthening approach we have taken and how this supported sustainable improvements.

WaterAid/ Basile Ouedraogo

Thematic areas of our work

Multimedia

WASH and health

Watch our short explainer about what water, sanitation and hygiene has to do with health.

 

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