Tag Archives: World Health Organization

Save Lives: Clean Your Hands – 5 May 2013

Save lives: Clean Your Hands. Photo: WHO

Photo: WHO

This annual global campaign on 5 May supports the World Health Organization’s (WHO) effort to improve hand hygiene in health care and thus prevent often life threatening healthcare-associated infections (HAI).

It was launched in 2009 as a follow-up to WHO’s First Global Patient Safety Challenge: Clean Care is Safer Care work.

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WASH by numbers: the latest on cost benchmarks, economic returns and handwashing

One of the most quoted WASH statistics was recently “downgraded”. For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, not $8 but “only” $4 is returned in economic returns through increased productivity. This recalculation [1], says the World Health Organization, is mainly a result of higher investment cost estimates and the more complete inclusion of operation and maintenance (O&M) costs.

Providing a better insight into O&M costs has been one of the achievements of the WASHCost project of the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. WASHCost has published minimum benchmarks for costing sustainable basic WASH services in developing countries [2]. The project collected data from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Andhra Pradesh (India) and Mozambique.

The main message is that spending less than the minimum benchmarks will result in a higher risk of reduced service levels or long-term failure. NGOs claiming that “US$20 can provide clean water for one person for 20 years” have clearly forgotten to include annual recurrent costs for operation and maintenance, capital maintenance and direct support.

The real cost for 20 years of basic water supply from a borehole and handpump would be, per person,  between US$ 20 and US$ 61 for construction plus US$ 3-6 every year to keep it working. In total for the 20 years this would amount to  US$ 80 to US$ 181 per person.

Similarly, for the most basic sanitation service, a traditional pit latrine, the combined costs would be US$ 37 – 106 per person over 20 years.

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Al Jazeera’s Inside Story discusses new WHO/UNICEF report on water and sanitation MDGs


The UN announced that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to cut the number of people who do not have access to safe drinking water by half, has been met five years before the 2015 deadline. In contrast, the sanitation MDG target will not be met.

The report issued by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) says that between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources such as piped supplies and protected wells.

Does this really show an early success for the MDG? How reliable is the UN report on safe drinking water?

Joining presenter Adrian Finighan on Inside Story are guests: Patrick Moriarty, in charge of the International Programme for the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, a Netherlands-based NGO; Joakim Harlin, a senior water resources advisor at the UNDP; and Muhammad Jahangir, the founder of Better Tomorrow, an NGO focusing on water sanitation.

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64th World Health Assembly approves three WASH resolutions

The 64th World Health Assembly (WHA) has adopted a resolution on drinking-water, sanitation and health, and two other related resolutions on cholera and Guinea worm (dracunculiasis).

Yael Velleman at the WHA in Geneva with a copy of the WaterAid report "The sanitation problem - What can and should the health sector do". Photo: WaterAid

WaterAid had issued a call to leaders participating in the WHA in Geneva to prioritise sanitation and water in the fight against diseases including cholera and dracunculiasis. In support of their campaign, WaterAid published a new report
The sanitation problem: What can and should the health sector do?. WaterAid’s Senior Health Policy Analyst Yael Velleman wrote an opinion piece in the Guardian and posted daily updates from the WHA.

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Côte d’Ivoire, Abidjan: cholera claims eight lives

Poor hygiene exacerbated by growing piles of rubbish and the current political crisis are all factors that haelth experts and residents say contributed to a dry-season cholera outbreak in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire. So far eight people out of 61 infected have died.

The first case – in Abidjan’s Adjamé District (a poor neighbourhood that has seen severe post-election violence in recent weeks) – was registered in mid-January [2011]; the major rains ended in November [2010]. Cholera has also affected the district of Williamsville.

“Across this region [West Africa] there are pockets of poverty where hygiene is poor and we see occasional outbreaks,” Mamadou D. Ball, WHO representative in Côte d’Ivoire, told IRIN. “The cholera bacterium is always present.”

Sandrine Touré, a health assistant in Williamsville, said she often sees children eating just after playing in rubbish. She added that many people, even in Abidjan, have no access to safe drinking water.

Since the political deadlock, household garbage is no longer being collected.

Even if families know that poor sanitation is linked to infectious disease, cholera was not much on people’s minds this time of year, said Soumaïla Traoré. “There is negligence in some communities. With the piles of rubbish people knew the threat of illness was real. But no one talked of cholera in this period.”

UNICEF and WHO are working with local health authorities to treat patients and promote better hygiene. advise communities on prevention. They are providing soap, cholera treatment kits and posters with prevention messages.

Source: IRIN, 31 Jan 2011

Research project on safe wastewater reuse for urban poor concludes

The WHO/IDRC/FAO research project on non-treatment options for safe wastewater use in poor urban communities was concluded on 30 April 2010. The report of the final workshop in Amman, Jordan (7-10 March 2010) has now been published.

The objective of the project was to test the applicability of the third edition of the WHO Guidelines for the Safe Use of Wastewater, Excreta and Greywater in Agriculture and Aquaculture (WHO, 2006). For this purpose the following four field studies were conducted:

  • Ghana Kumasi: Evaluation of non-treatment options for maximizing public health benefits of WHO guidelines governing the use of wastewater in urban vegetable production in Ghana.
  • Ghana/Tamale: Minimizing health risks from using excreta and grey water by poor urban and peri-urban farmers in the Tamale municipality, Ghana.
  • Jordan: Safe use of greywater for agriculture in Jerash Refugee Camp: focus on technical, institutional and managerial aspects of non-treatment options.
  • Senegal: Proposition d’étude en vue de l’intégration et de l’application des normes de la réutilization des eaux usées et excréta dans l’agriculture.

The research team is now working on the final product, a Guidance Document/Manual for Sanitation Safety Plans to assist national and municipal authorities and other users of the WHO guidelines in their application.

During the 2010 Stockholm Water Week, WHO will launch the second edition of the information kit for the WHO safe use of wastewater guidelines (Sunday 5 September 17:45-18:45).

Project documents and the 2006 WHO guidelines are available on the WHO web page on Safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater.

World Health Assembly: WaterAid puts WASH on the agenda

WaterAid was able to get WASH issues on the agenda at the 2010 World Health Assembly, reports policy researcher Yael Velleman.

A text drafted by WaterAid on the role of access to WASH in preventing child under-nutrition was inserted word-for-word into the WHO resolution on Infant and Young Child Nutrition. Prior to this, neither the resolution nor the WHO Secretariat report which informed it contained any reference to WASH, Velleman says.

WaterAid was participating in the 63rd World Health Assembly as part of the NGO delegation, comprised of World Vision, Save the Children, Oxfam, Action for Global Health and VSO.

The NGO delegation hosted a side event addressing equity in access to healthcare services. WaterAid presented a flyer on their forthcoming report “The sanitation problem: what can and should the health sector do?”

WaterAid hopes that discussions on sanitation and water will be included, for the first time, on the official agenda of the next World Health Assembly.

Source: Serena O’Sullivan, End Water Poverty blog, 27 May 2010

South Africa or India: who holds the world record for handwashing?

South African children have set an official new Guiness World Record for the most number of people washing hands at one location, but a simultaneous event in India attracted more than eight times as many students.

About 15,000 students from 23 schools in Chennai converged under the blazing sun in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to celebrate Global Handwashing Day and break the previous record held since 22 October 2008 by Bhiddwa School Niketon of Dhaka, Bangladesh with 1,213 participants.

Photo: Indian Express

Photo: Indian Express

The programme in Chennai began almost an hour late. Luckily, the dignitaries kept their speeches short. Large screens placed in the stadium aired demonstrations on how to wash hands.

Soon after the speeches, the whistle blew and the children got into the act. They had bubble bottles, soaps and paper napkins all in place. And in less than 10 minutes, the event was over.

Though the children liked the idea of coming together and assembling in the stadium, the scorching heat posed a problem. “Our teachers insisted that we came, otherwise we would not have bothered about this,” said a group of children from a Corporation high school.

On the other hand, some students were really excited to be part of the event. “We knew that we are going to be part of a record-setting event. Despite being a bit tired, we find it great to be here,” said Saravan and friends from a school near Choolai.

The students were brought together by the government, World Health Organization and Lifebuoy to promote the habit of washing hands as a measure to prevent disease.

Bryan Habana washing hands with the children. Photo: Bongani Nkosi

Bryan Habana washing hands with the children. Photo: Bongani Nkosi

At the same time in South Africa, local rugby hero Bryan Habana and 1,802 Gauteng schoolchildren were staging their own record breaking attempt.

Habana is part of the Gimme 5 for Germ-free Hands campaign led by Protex, an anti-bacterial soap brand, owned by Colgate Palmolive. The campaign has visited more than 1,200 primary schools throughout the country. On Global Handwashing Day about 1-million children from schools around South Africa washed their hands under the auspices of the brand.

The South African was officially recognised as a Guinness World Record by adjudicator Carl Saville, who flew out from the UK for the occasion.

Source: Indian Express, 16 Oct 2009

Water, sanitation and hygiene standards in schools in low-cost settings

The World Health Organization (WHO) is seeking assistance from those with suitable experience to review the draft – Water, sanitation and hygiene standards in schools in low-cost settings Draft- WASH Standards in Schools.  A “Response Form” which details the type of review being sought g can be found here Response Form .  Responses from interested individuals/institutions should be sent by 28 February 2009.

The guidelines deal specifically with water supply (water quality, quantity and access), hygiene promotion, sanitation, control of vector-borne disease, cleaning and waste disposal and food storage and preparation. They are designed for use in low-cost settings where simple and affordable measures can make a significant improvement to hygiene and health.

The draft guidelines have been edited by John Adams, Jamie Bartram, Yves Chartier and Jackie Sims.

Pakistan, NWFP: Militants cause gastroenteritis in Swat Valley

Militants blow up a an electricity sub-station, causing tube wells and the water supply to be disrupted; people resort to using dirty water and then fall sick. This, in a nutshell, is what has happened in parts of Swat Valley in North West Frontier Province.

Over 2,000 {people] have visited [the Saidu Teaching Hospital (STH) in Swat District hospital] since 2 October [2008], amid rumours that cholera had erupted in Saidu Sharif, capital of Swat District, about 3km from the city of Mingora, where the grid station was blown up by militants.

[...]

“It’s not cholera,” said Mohammad Khan, medical superintendent at the 500-bed STH near the River Swat. “It is acute watery diarrhoea which is also known as gastroenteritis and the media is misinforming people,” he said. [...] WHO has sent cholera kits (also used for treating gastroenteritis) for 2,000 patients and samples are being collected to rule out cholera.

[...]

“People think because they are using running water, it is clean. What they fail to understand is that they wash their clothes, bathe and even defecate in the same water they use for drinking. Even untreated sewage finds its way into these streams,” said Owais Yaqoob, a doctor at STH.

[...]

The executive district health officer in Swat, Bakht Jamal [...] is mobilising the mosques, and vehicles are making announcements through loudspeakers at street corners telling people to boil water and wash hands with soap before eating, and after visiting toilets. Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has been working in the conflict zones of Matta and Kabal [...] has hired three generators which are running tube wells on a rotational basis in Mingora city. WHO teams are also distributing chlorine tablets in Mingora.

Source: IRIN, 15 Oct 2008