Japan and UNDP launch new project to deal with rising health care waste
The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented rise in health care waste around the globe. Now the Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a new project that will support the national health agencies and other key stakeholders in Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the Maldives to address the increased amount of infectious health care waste caused that is overwhelming waste treatment facilities.
Improperly managed health care waste is recognized as a significant source of pollutants. For example, disposing of untreated health care waste in open dumps and landfill sites can cause soil and water contamination, while inadequate incineration of medical waste can lead to the release of persistent organic pollutants.
Many low- and middle-income countries have historically had limited public and private investments in sustainable waste treatment systems, and now find themselves in the dire situation of mounting health care waste that is beyond their waste management capacity, the UNDP stated.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present compound challenges for countries on their path to recovery and sustainable development,” said Kanni Wignaraja, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific at UNDP at the signing ceremony in New York. “The threat posed by inadequate health care waste management systems is one such challenge that requires urgent attention, so we can better safeguard our health as well as that of the environment.”
For that reason, the two-year $11 million ‘Project for the Improvement of Infectious Waste Management’ supported by the government of Japan and the UNDP was officially launched.
Support for local waste management
The project will support key stakeholders in the three countries to deploy locally appropriate health care waste management practices and technologies to help protect human health and minimize the pandemic’s environmental and social impacts.
Health facilities in 26 sub-districts in Bangladesh, in 15 districts across 4 cities in Bhutan, and 6 atolls in the Maldives will benefit from the support.
Health care workers will receive training on properly treating and handling infectious waste, which requires special treatment processes to ensure there is no risk of onward disease transmission to patients, hospital staff, and nearby communities. Health facilities will also be equipped with specialized health care waste disposal equipment and digital management systems for improved coordination.
“The Government of Japan is proud to support Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the Maldives to establish sustainable solutions for health care waste management, that will provide long-term benefits for health care workers, patients, and the wider community, as well as contribute to protecting human security,” said the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations.