In Africa, disasters both natural and manmade, have damaged the infrastructure in health systems and gradual deterioration has resulted in large gaps which affect the population particularly mother and child programmes.
Investment in supporting and rebuilding the infrastructure has been in silos where several agencies, with varying expertise, have tried to support gaps in skills, technical support and basic knowledge amongst those that maintain and deliver healthcare and support services. Across the vast African continent, there are major difference in the income ranking from low to high middle income countries and the lack of resources both, finances and staffing needs attention.
Some strengthening of health systems can happen within the given resources- and the pivotal one is education, training and building capacity and this gives the most cost effective returns. There is much overlap between Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and infection prevention and control (IPC) – one cannot function without the other. While WASH extends to the community and IPC is mainly focused in healthcare facilities, however they are inextricably linked and their inherent strength depends upon working together.
To maximise resources, IPC WASH collaborated to provide a joint platform where IPC practitioners, engineers, environmental health officers, laboratory technicians and clinicians work together to address, IPC, WASH and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).To this end, in 2016, a collaborative between WHO WASH, UNICEF and ICAN was established to address the following:
- Bringing together different categories of healthcare workers to learn on a single integrated platform,
- To support each other through understanding the function that each performs in delivering safe health,
- To understand the relationship between IPC, WASH and AMR and how the latter could be reduced.
Cape Town July 2017 – Programme Overview and Outcomes
A one-week intensive curriculum was devised that covered major topics regarding aspects of IPC and WASH . Included in the training were two field trips and visit to a maternity hospital and a district general hospital in a low income area. There were 29 participants who attended this initial programme.
Topics included, introduction to Microbiology, Evaluating IPC, WASH and WASH FiT, WHO standards Water and Sanitation for Health Facility Improvement Tool, the built environment – other specialised units and an overview of strategies to put the newly acquired knowledge into practice.
Feedback from participants and tutors has been very positive, ICAN will be continuing to deliver WASH training throughout August this time in Sierra Leone. More information on this to follow.