The World Health Organisation (WHO) has disclosed that it trained more than 200 000 health workers on hand hygiene since the onset of Covid-19.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti made the disclosure in her message commemorating this year’s World Hand Hygiene Day.
Dr. Moeti stated that World Hand Hygiene Day was marked annually on 5 May to foster and support a culture of handwashing, while raising awareness and understanding about using this effective and affordable way to help prevent the spread of diseases.
She said this year’s theme, “Unite for Safety – Clean Your Hands”, focuses specifically on health facilities, with a call to all health workers, patients and their family members to unite on hand hygiene to achieve a culture of high quality, safer care.
Highlighting a number of diseases preventable by hand washing, she said:
“Evidence shows us that effective infection prevention and control measures, including hand hygiene, could reduce health care-associated infections by more than half, while boosting new-born survival rates by as much as 44%.
“Correct, frequent hand hygiene also plays a significant role in the fight against epidemics and pandemics, as we have seen from the response to COVID-19 and cholera, as well as the burgeoning threat of anti-microbial resistance”.
Moeti noted that the depth of the challenge of prioritizing hand hygiene as an infection prevention and control measure was highlighted by WHO/UNICEF global estimates.
She said it revealed that one in every four health facilities worldwide lacked even the most basic access to water supplies, and one in every three do not have hand hygiene facilities at point of care.
She also noted that the situation was even more dire in Africa, where half of all health care facilities do not have basic water access.
Speaking on measures taken by the Organisation to improve hand hygiene in health care facilities across Africa, the WHO Regional Director said:
“WHO has developed and disseminated hand hygiene in health care guidelines to Member States and facilities, and offered technical guidance in the implementation of monitoring tools in countries in the African Region.
“Additionally, WHO in the African Region has supported the improvement of hand hygiene practices through awareness campaigns in Member States, the training of more than 200,000 health workers since the onset of COVID-19, and the provision of WASH infrastructural support to multiple facilities.
“Technical guidance on local production of Alcohol-Based Hand Rub (ABHR), and scaling up existing efforts, has been conducted in Member States including Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda.
“WHO has collaborated with the African Union and the Africa Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention to develop a legal framework to institutionalize Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) standards at national level, and in healthcare facilities.
“This legal framework emphasizes that hand hygiene is a national indicator of the quality of healthcare systems that must be formalized in all countries”, Moeti said.
Futhermore, the WHO Boss noted that good practices on hand hygiene needed to be expanded and sustained to build a culture of compliance, to ultimately improve the well-being of all people in the African Region.
She also noted that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), and hand hygiene measures, were a fundamental part of the WHO’s Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) minimum requirements.
“The Regional IPC strategic plan includes implementation of these minimum requirements in all countries in the Region, with a view to boosting future resilience.
“A holistic approach that includes improved collaboration, and public-private partnerships and investment, remains crucial to expanding and maintaining infrastructure for safe water, sanitation and hygiene in the Region.
“More financial resources are required in most African countries to achieve universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene services by 2030, and research on the socio-economic burden of healthcare-associated infections in African countries is also needed.
“To prioritize clean hands in health facilities, workers at all levels need to believe in the importance of hand hygiene and IPC in saving lives. They are key players in achieving the appropriate behaviours and attitudes to this critical intervention”, she said.