MANILA – Three out of 10 health care facilities in the Philippines lack access to clean toilets, according to a joint report by two United Nations (UN) agencies.
The report, led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Joint Monitoring Programme, said 23 percent of health care facilities in the Philippines have dirty toilets while 4 percent have no toilets at all.
"Health care facilities won’t be able to provide quality care to people if there is no safe water, toilet or hand washing facility," said WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Gundo Weiler.
The "WASH in Health Care Facilities—Global Baseline Report 2019" is "the first comprehensive global assessment of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in health care facilities."
"If patients feel the toilets at a health care facility are in an unacceptable condition, they may avoid using them (or choose not to visit the facility at all). This can lead to open defecation, or people withholding their needs leading to associated health effects such as incontinence and urinary tract infections," the report warned.
According to Weiler, the recent water shortage that affected millions of residents in Metro Manila underscored the importance of prioritizing "long-term solutions" to water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities.
The water shortage affected five major hospitals, namely the Rizal Medical Center in Pasig City; National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong City; and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, and Quirino Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
"The recent water shortage in Metro Manila highlighted the need for long-term solutions to water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities. The Philippines must ensure that safe WASH facilities are available and accessible to ensure health for all Filipinos," said Weiler.
According to the report, the assessment of WASH in health care facilities depended on the standards of each jurisdiction surveyed.
"For example, the assessment in the Philippines classified toilets as clean if they were observed to have a clean toilet bowl, walls, floor and ceiling. The Lebanon survey considered a health care facility to have clean toilets if they did not have a strong smell, significant numbers of flies or visible signs of faeces."
The available data showed that one in four health care facilities around the world lack basic water services, affecting over 2 billion people.
The report further revealed that many health centers lack sanitation services, basic facilities for hand hygiene, and safe segregation and disposal of health care waste.
"These services are crucial to preventing infections, reducing the spread of antimicrobial resistance and providing quality care, particularly for safe childbirth," the report read.
WHO said it is supporting the Philippine government in establishing WASH standards for health care facilities to "[strengthen] the capacity of health workforce."