International Women's Health Coalition Inc.

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Meeting: 
Seventy-second World Health Assembly (A72/1)
Agenda Item: 
- Water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities
Statement: 

Achieving universal access to WASH – and fulfilling the human right to water and sanitation - in health care facilities is possible and can support progress on SDGs for health, water and gender equality.

The draft resolution importantly identifies WASH as critical to maternal, newborn and child health. Lack of WASH facilities during labor can result in infection or sepsis, resulting in higher rates of maternal mortality. Women who go to prenatal clinics where providers are trained on water and hygiene practices are far more likely to deliver in a health facility and continue postnatal visits after childbirth. They are also more likely to exhibit better hygienic practices at home, such as proper handwashing technique, and have access to other maternal health services. WASH is also critical to safe abortion services and care.

Safe waste management systems in facilities are fundamental to safeguarding water supplies for all. When safe, clean water is not available, women often lose time and bear the physical burden, as well as risk harassment, violence or rape, of going longer distances to collect household water.

Private, safe, accessible sanitation facilities responding to people of all genders has positive implications for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of patients, caregivers and staff. It supports management of menstrual hygiene; combats discrimination often faced by transgender people; and reduces women’s risk of UTIs due to avoiding inadequate toilets.

The unmet need for contraception is high – 214 million women in developing countries. Inadequate WASH limits contraception options in health care facilities. Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), such as intrauterine devices and implants, require clean hands and instruments for insertion and removal to prevent infection.

Finally, prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases, such as cervical cancer, require universal WASH for quality facility care and IPC.