India is one of the fastest growing economies today. But when it comes to development indicators, it continues to lag behind. For instance, the world’s second largest democracy continues to grapple with maternal and newborn mortalities and features among the top countries for highest casualties. For every 100,000 live births, 167 mothers and 28 newborn lose their lives. But, the statistics can be drastically cut down, by ensuring access to clean water, and providing a clean birthing environment according to several international studies over the decades.
With an aim to develop greater understanding on the status of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in healthcare facilities, WaterAid India carried out a series of assessments in 343 facilities across 12 districts in six states over 18 months. Findings revealed poor status of facilities and key gaps which needed to be addressed around lack of WASH facilities, safe disposal of biomedical waste, and being short staffed.
To propagate awareness on the basis of the assessment findings, WaterAid India launched the Healthy Start Campaign to integrate better and safer WASH facilities in health centres on 22 July 2016 simultaneously in Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Hyderabad, and Bhubaneshwar. The objectives of the long term campaign are to influence change in healthcare systems to strengthen implementation and the delivery in preventive healthcare.
The launch in Delhi was well represented by members of key civil society organisations and the central and state government. A panel discussion titled, ‘Perspectives on and Ideas for Integrating WASH in Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health’ saw interesting and lively debate between panellists. On panel were Dr Vandana Prasad, Convenor, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan; Public Health Expert Mira Shiva, Dr Sanjay Jaiwasl of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, and members from organisations such as UNICEF and WHO. The Guest of Honour presiding over the event was Shri Faggan Singh Kulaste, Honourable Minister of State, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
“We need to plan in a more sustainable manner and not look towards stop gap schemes. Focus should not be just the provision of infrastructure but also ensuring that the services are accessible for people visiting these facilities. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring effective implementation of government schemes to provide access to water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities. The community needs to be aware of their responsibilities to initiate this change and help in keeping hospitals clean. Government is open to suggestions from civil society on how to strengthen the implementation of schemes thus reaching out to every person with the appropriate services,” Faggan Singh Kulaste said at the event.
In Madhya Pradesh, Shri Rustam Singh, Honourable Minister of the Department of Public Health and Family Welfare was present as part of the state launch. Around 55 people participated in the event. The need to collaborate with the health sector was emphasised at the event. The health department recognised WaterAid’s efforts in assessing health institutions as part of the Kayakalp programme. Participants stressed on the need to have regular discussion on the issue with different stakeholders to highlight gaps in WASH in healthcare facilities.
In Lucknow, speaking at the campaign launch, Dr. Juhi Singh, Chairperson State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPRC), said it was the need of the hour that civil society organisations and various departments, collaborate and work together for the cause. “While it is the responsibility of government to create facilities and make enabling policies it is responsibility of the public to contribute towards sustenance of services. Behaviour change starts from self and everyone needs to adopt healthy behaviour,” she added. A panel consisting of Professor Ramakant, former Head of the Department of Surgery, King George’s Medical University, Dr. Sulabha Swaroop, Senior Consultant, Quality Assurance, planning Department, NHM, Sudhir Mishra, Resident Editor, Nav Bharat Times and Dr. Smriti Singh, Director, Mahila Samakhya, deliberated on the theme of “Perspective and Ideas for integrating WASH in Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health.”
In Odisha the launch event was attended by Sashi Prava Bindhani, State Information Commissioner, Dr. D.K Panda, Team Leader, Odisha State Health Resource Centre, National Health Mission, Dr. Amrita Patel, Advisor, State Women Resource Centre, Women and Child Development Department, Madhumita Ray, Associate Professor, KIIT School of Rural Management, Dr. Himanshu Sekhar Rout, Professor and Head of the Department of Analytical and Applied Economics, Utkal University and Narendra Singh Chouhan, WASH Officer, UNICEF. The participants called on to develop a citizen’s monitoring mechanism for healthcare facilities and organise series of workshops to share best practices.
In Hyderabad, Dr Veena Kumari, Commissioner, Telangana Vaidya Vidhana Parishad said, “The problem is not with the doctors but with the way the healthcare facilities are maintained. Two-hundred crore budget has been sanctioned to strengthen the WASH infrastructure in the healthcare facilities and the government is aiming for Arogya (without any diseases) Telangana. With this we will improve the government hospitals.”
With regard to the WASH challenges faced in primary healthcare facilities, Dr. Subba Lakshmi, Director, Health and Family Welfare emphasised on the need of infrastructure in public health facilities. ”Inter-sectoral convergence can go a long way in strengthening WASH in public health facilities,” she added.
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