By Bernice Bessey .
Lack of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities at some health centres has been identified as one of the factors contributing to the high infant mortality rate in the country.
Though no data has been established to proof this claim due to lack of research in the area, health experts, nevertheless, are convinced that lack of WASH facilities at labour wards leave infants with deadly infections.
In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a data it compiled on the health status of 224 nations around the world, ranked Ghana 165th in infant mortality rate with a score of 37.37% per 1,000 live births.
Although this insignificantly reduced in 2017 to 35.2 deaths per 1,000 live births with boys, 39.1 deaths/1,000 live births and female, 31.1 deaths/1,000 live births, concerns from health experts about poor or lack of WASH, especially at labour wards, give no hope that the country may perform better on the scale next year.
Interestingly, health centres that have washroom facilities had converted them into store and record keeping rooms because of irregular or no access to water and as a result KVIP will be provided as the alternative.
WASH situational analysis conducted in districts like Bongo and Kassena Nankana West indicated that only 17 percent out of 29 health facilities where women go to give birth have access to indoor water pump.
Dr. Winifred Ofosu, Upper East Regional Director of Health Services agreed at a media programme organised by Water Aid Ghana in Accra last week that the situation on the ground is not the best.
According to him, infections from poor WASH facilities at hospitals contribute to infant deaths in the country.
He urged the media not to be too quick to report on health centres that have been completed but not in use, saying “It is not true that they have completed these facilities and not been used. Some of them do not have WASH facilities, don’t have toilets for staff, don’t have toilets for patients, nor electricity and clean water.
“It is important for the media to make sure that before they do such reports, they conduct inspections on the facility to make sure that some of these things are there.” He continued that: “What happens is that when the health staff start using these facilities without WASH amenities, then with time everybody will start to overlook that. Toilets are to be provided for staff, patients and public.”
He said health workers face challenges when they are posted to certain areas. “You can imagine when health workers are posted to communities without WASH facilities. You will realize that some of them will have to do open defecation. We are actually educating the community people not to engage in this, but toilets are not available.”
The Regional Health Director mentioned lack of accommodation as another major challenge confronting some of the health workers in the new communities. “Some of the health facilities don’t have accommodation so they have to rent and in some places the houses you get to rent has no toilet, so that again presents another challenge. “These are the challenges facing health workers at places where there are no toilets and water is not flowing and sometimes no electricity,” he lamented.