Ewurabena Yanyi-Akofur — Country Director, WaterAid Ghana
Ewurabena Yanyi-Akofur — Country Director, WaterAid Ghana

Cost of infections in healthcare facilities reaches $1.57 billion - WaterAid reveals

The cost of infections acquired in healthcare facilities in the country stand at $1.570 million each year, WaterAid has revealed.


It said the situation was leading to thousands of preventable deaths. “At least half of these infections could be prevented through the provision of improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in these facilities,” the organisation stated in a statement issued to mark the unveiling of a new research.

Healthcare-acquired infections

The statement said the new data, using World Bank methodology, highlighted that if healthcare-acquired infections were to be halved, then at least 31,300 lives could be saved across the country every year, and “a staggering $72 million could be saved from the national budget.”

Ghana is one of seven African countries featured in the data alongside Nigeria, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Uganda and Mali. In total, the new data shows that infections caused by lack of handwashing facilities, clean water and decent toilets cost Sub-Saharan Africa $8.4 billion each year.

Poor cleanliness

The data shows that lack of cleanliness and hygiene during medical care and recovery are major causes of infection transmissions. According to WaterAid, the most common healthcare-acquired infections are surgical site infections, bloodstream infections and respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia.

The highest rates are found in intensive care units, neonatal wards and pediatric medical wards. These findings, the statement said, painted a bleak picture, not only of the needless loss of life from entirely preventable causes but of the fact that those infections cost an average of 1.98 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while treating the illnesses consumes an average 4.6 per cent of total health budgets every year.

“This is a cost that will only increase as a greater share of these infections becomes resistant to antibiotics,” WaterAid warned in the statement. 

Clean water

The statement said currently, 45 per cent of healthcare facilities in the country lacked access to clean water, adding that the continued suffering caused by those infections in lower-middle income countries only highlighted the deep inequalities within the global society and the inadequacy of sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene access among the most vulnerable communities.

It insisted that increased investment from donors and international financial institutions for health care facilities was essential to break the chain of infection, decrease the demand for antibiotics and reduce the opportunity for a resistant infection to become dominant. 

Antimicrobial resistance

“WaterAid is calling for increased investments in Ghana’s healthcare system to ensure every healthcare facility in the country has clean water, sanitation, and hygiene services as our first line of defence against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) for both people living this reality daily and the global economy.  

“We also call for donor countries, multilateral development banks, and other financing sources to support local governments with financing as a matter of priority to tackle the AMR crisis and to deliver improved water, sanitation and hygiene as identified in country national action plans,” the statement said.

Increased funding

Reacting to the World Bank data, the Country Director, WaterAid Ghana, Ewurabena Yanyi-Akofur, said the absence of basic sanitation and hygiene facilities along with clean water was not just a health crisis but an economic one.

“We call for immediate action to secure increased financing from the Ghanaian government, alongside contributions from donors, multilateral development banks, and the private sector to support Ghana’s national WASH Infection Prevention Control action plans.

“Ensuring every healthcare facility in Ghana has access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene services is imperative. The moment to take action is now!" she said. The new data comes ahead of the UN High Level Meeting on AMR this September which will see global leaders gather to discuss the critical need for all countries to prepare and fight against future pandemics and antimicrobial resistance.

Clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene are the first line of defence against infections in healthcare settings. 

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