WHO says ‘most’ of its pandemic medical aid to poorer countries will end up as waste

Massive amounts of medical waste produced by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic has accumulated around the world and poses a growing “threat” to global public health, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a report released on Tuesday.

The WHO said on February 1 that it estimated it had shipped “87,000 tons” of medical equipment to the poorest countries in need of Chinese coronavirus health assistance from March 2020 to November 2021.

“Most of this equipment should have ended up as waste,” according to the WHO, which is the international public health body of the United Nations (UN).

A “tonne” is a metric unit of mass equal to 1,000 kilograms or 2,204.6 pounds.

“Tens of thousands of tons of additional medical waste from the COVID-19 response [Chinese coronavirus] The pandemic has strained healthcare waste management systems around the world, threatening human and environmental health and exposing an urgent need to improve waste management practices,” the WHO said on Tuesday. .

The organization has partnered with an emergency United Nations initiative to facilitate international shipments of various medical supplies over the past 20 months, including “140 million [coronavirus] test kits, with the potential to generate 2,600 tonnes of non-infectious waste (mainly plastic) and 731,000 liters of chemical waste (the equivalent of a third of an Olympic swimming pool).

The WHO has also shipped “more than 8 billion doses of [coronavirus] vaccine [which] were administered worldwide, generating 144,000 tonnes of additional waste in the form of syringes, needles and safety boxes.

A worker shows abandoned personal protective equipment (PPE) found at Burangkeng landfill where most medical waste from Covid-19 hospital wards is collected, in Bekasi on October 19, 2021. (DASRIL ROSZANDI/AFP via Getty Images)

The WHO report details how 30% of healthcare facilities worldwide – 60% in the least developed countries – are “not equipped” to handle medical waste loads. This statistic only accounts for medical waste documented before the start of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, which began on March 11, 2020 and continues today.

According to the WHO, clinics and hospitals that do not properly handle or dispose of medical waste risk exposing their employees and patients to “needlestick injuries, burns and pathogenic microorganisms”. “.

These ill-equipped sites also negatively impact members of nearby communities by fostering the existence of “poorly managed landfills and landfills… [which in turn produce] air contaminated by burning waste, poor water quality, or disease-carrying pests.

The February 1 WHO report recommended practical solutions to address the medical waste problem, such as “rational use of PPE” or personal protective equipment. AfricaNews on February 2 noted that the WHO does not recommend medical workers to use gloves when vaccinating patients.

WHO says 'most' of its pandemic medical aid to poorer countries will end up as waste

A health worker carries medical waste for disposal at a government hospital in Kolkata on January 18, 2022. (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

“Based on international health best practices, WHO does not recommend that healthcare providers use gloves for vaccine injections, but the report indicates that it was a common practice,” observed the outlet. after reviewing the WHO medical waste analysis.

The WHO officially recommends the use of medical gloves for two reasons: “[t]o reduce the risk of contamination of the hands of healthcare workers with blood and other body fluids” and “[t]o reduce the risk of germs spreading in the environment and being transmitted from caregiver to patient and vice versa, as well as from one patient to another.

“Using gloves when they are not indicated is a waste of resources and does not contribute to the reduction of
cross-transmission,” the WHO writes in a self-produced information leaflet.


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