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WASH is a prerequisite for quality care and is particularly important for the safe management of childbirth. One million deaths each year are associated with unclean births. Infections account for 26% of neonatal deaths and 11% of maternal mortality.

On the 3rd of April 2019, the first global baseline estimates for water, sanitation, hygiene, healthcare waste management and environmental cleaning (WASH) services in healthcare facilities, prepared by the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), were published. The new JMP global database on WASH in healthcare facilities includes national data from 125 countries drawing upon assessments of over 560,000 healthcare facilities.

The figures indicate that WASH services in healthcare facilities are sub-standard in every region. An estimated 896 million people use healthcare facilities with no water service and 1.5 billion use facilities with no sanitation services. The data highlights the massive challenge ahead for those working to achieve universal WASH services in healthcare facilities and they provide a robust basis for identifying priorities, making investments, and tracking progress.

Environmental cleaning is an essential component of quality care and sits at the interface between WASH and infection prevention and control (IPC). Assessing whether an area is considered “clean” is very subjective, and visibly clean may be very different from microbiologically clean (see Soapbox’s WASH & CLEAN study for more information). We know that frontline workers who clean are champions of the healthcare environment, yet they are often neglected within facilities, untrained and lack real knowledge of IPC.

The new JMP report reveals that in 2016, only 4 countries (out of 125) had sufficient data to estimate coverage of basic environmental cleaning services in health care facilities. The report calls on governments to set their own standards for environmental cleaning and to put programmes in place to improve their services in line with strengthening the health system. Health ministers from around the world will meet in Geneva next month for the 72nd World Health Assembly. Along with our partners, Soapbox calls on ministers to agree to the proposed resolution on water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities (http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB144/B144_R5-en.pdf) to deliver health for all.

The full WASH in health care facilities: global baseline report 2019 is available here https://www.washinhcf.org/resources/

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