On World Patient Safety Day, WaterAid and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust announce the launch of a three-year program to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene in health centers, reaching 750,000 people across Zambia.
With a $6.9 million grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, WaterAid will construct clean water infrastructure for health centers in Monze, Kazungula, Mwandi and Sesheke districts. The work will focus on maternal and child health, improving the safety and dignity of frontline health staff and patients and reducing hygiene-related diseases. By 2023, 60 health centers will have running water, handwashing stations, waste disposal equipment and toilets and showers in maternity wards.
“The pandemic has only intensified what we already knew – that no community should lack access to clean running water, especially when it comes to protecting their health,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “There is a tremendous opportunity to modernize healthcare facilities in Zambia, and we are grateful to partner with so many local leaders who are helping to implement and expand this life-saving infrastructure across the country.”
Today, only half of Zambia’s rural health centers have access to a basic water source and only one in four has access to a handwashing facility with clean water and soap. Without clean water and sanitation, health centers can harm the patients they are supposed to help. A lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene puts both patients and health workers at a greater risk of infection, disease and even death. Mothers and newborns are especially vulnerable.
Few low-income countries are collecting data on the availability of water in health centers, making it hard for governments to effectively address the crisis. In addition to providing critical clean water infrastructure, this project will train frontline health staff on infection control and work to educate and inspire local communities to demand their rights to services over the long-term through citizen-led accountability.
“Everyone has a right to quality health care, and the baseline for that is a facility with running water, toilets, and soap for handwashing and infection control,” said Kelly Parsons, CEO, WaterAid America. “We're honored to have a longstanding partnership with the Helmsley Charitable Trust to close these gaps in Zambia and beyond. Together, we're creating a roadmap to bring water, sanitation and hygiene to health centers nationwide.”
This project builds on the success of a previous WaterAid project funded by Helmsley in Zambia, reaching 14 schools and 40 health centers. WaterAid worked with the government of Zambia to develop the country’s first national standards for water, sanitation and hygiene in health centers. This new project, which models coverage in every health center across two districts, will be used as a blueprint for the government and other stakeholders on how to bring coverage to every health center in Zambia, one district at a time.
Once complete, data and lessons from the project will inform national policies, standards and budgets and create a business case for continued investment in water, sanitation and hygiene in Zambia and across sub-Saharan Africa.