To reduce the burden of disease, health care waste needs sound management. The unsafe disposal of health care waste (for example, contaminated syringes and needles) poses public health risks. If not managed, direct reuse of contaminated injection equipment results in occupational hazards to health workers, waste handlers, and scavengers. Resources in this issue include the just published World Health Organization (WHO) manual “Safe Management of Wastes from Health-Care Activities,” USAID’s 2013 health care waste guidelines, a United Nationals Environment Program (UNEP) policy brief, and country studies from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Malaysia, and Morocco.
Healthcare Waste Management: The Current Issues in Developing Countries.Waste Management Research, 30(6) 2012. E Titto. (Link, pdf)
Special attention should be paid to the fate of health care waste after it leaves a facility where it can expose an entire community to risk, particularly those who come in close contact with it, such as waste transporters, landfill workers, waste pickers, scavengers, recyclers, and children.
Safe Management of Wastes from Health-Care Activities, 2013. A Prüss-Ustun, WHO. (Link, pdf)
This is the second edition of the WHO handbook on the safe, sustainable, and affordable management of health care waste—commonly known as the Blue Book. The original Blue Book was a comprehensive publication used widely in health care centers and government agencies to assist in the adoption of national guidance. In many countries, knowledge about the potential for harm from health care waste has expanded among governments, medical practitioners, and civil society. Increasingly, managers and medical staff are expected to take more responsibility for the waste they produce from their medical care and related activities.
UNEP Policy Brief on Healthcare Waste: What, Why and How, 2013. International Environmental Technology Centre. (Link, pdf)
Management of health care waste is becoming an issue of growing concern in urban areas. In many developing countries it is still indiscriminately disposed of and often mixed with municipal waste, thus causing serious health and environmental hazards, particularly to the scavengers operating at dump sites. Because of the extreme health hazards, health care waste cannot be disposed of along with other municipal waste. The technologies for the treatment of health care waste are not well understood or widely available in developing countries. As a result, choices made on the basis of technology may not be well informed, resulting in poor or uneconomic performance.
USAID Health Sectoral Guidelines: Healthcare Waste, 2013. G Gulis. (Link, pdf)
Currently, little or no management of health care waste occurs in small-scale facilities in developing countries. Training and infrastructure are minimal. Common practice in urban areas is to dispose of health care waste along with the general solid waste or, in peri-urban and rural areas, to bury waste without treatment. Since money for health care waste management is scarce, the first priority is to adopt actions and procedures that maximize risk reduction and cost the least.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Health-Care Facilities in Emergencies, 2013. WHO. (Link, pdf)
Health care facilities play a vital role within the community by providing essential medical care at all times including during emergencies. Any incident that causes loss of infrastructure, energy supply, loss of equipment, loss of staff or staff attrition, interruption to supply chains, or patient surge—such as sudden communicable disease epidemics, natural disasters (e.g., floods, earthquakes), or conflict—requires a holistic health response and recovery effort that includes actions to assess and restore basic WASH services.