DRC: Hygiene, also in hospital !

To visit a hospital or a health centre in the DR Congo is always a gripping experience: image different zones erected in big halls, joined together by a long covered corridors, clothing strewn about, women with sick young children standing around steaming casseroles...
A clean hospital!

...young women bringing in buckets of water, nurses administering care in big communal halls; rubbish here and there: plastic bags, medicine packages, plastic bottles, …etc How can we make sure that the sick who go to the hospital, and their family members, do not catch diseases from all the rubbish?

What is happening ? How do you explain the presence of rubbish in a place like a hospital, where cleanliness and hygiene are essential? And above all, how do we tackle this problem? How do we make sure that the sick who go to the hospital, and their family, do not get other diseases because of all the rubbish?

In Beni, in the province of North-Kivu, in the Eastern part of the DR Congo, health professionals, members of the Right to Heath network of our partners EDS and CODIC, the committee for health in Beni and local health organizations have decided that the situation needs to change: they want a clean hospital where hygiene is a priority and where the sick are not risking to get other diseases because of the garbage strewn around.

Training on waste management

All these organizations have joined forces to organize two educational days in August 2015 on biomedical waste management in health structures around Beni. The trainings are aimed at health professionals, but also at state representatives such as the public hygiene department of the city of Beni, or the civil protection service. Also present were the different local organizations that fight for better health for the local population. 35 people took part.

This training was also the occasion for nurses and doctors to share their difficulties with regards to the hygiene standards in which they very often have to work, and this in a region where conflict endures. “We recently had to treat victims of a military operation in the region against the rebels, but we do not have enough resources at the hospital. The patients had to go defecate or urinate wherever possible. The odor was strong and risked to attract animals and insects. We tried to construct more toilets, but we only had limited financial means.”

Recycling and security

Before starting the training, the participants assessed their knowledge on waste management, this test was the perfect tool for everyone to determine gaps in their knowledge. “ What is the most difficult for me is to know what the different types of waste are and how to treat them: what do I do with dirty syringes, or latex gloves used for operation. Can we recycle supplies, because often we do not have enough resources available.”

After this test, the participants could establish their expectations of the training :

Identifying the different types of waste (medical, household, industrial, etc…)

Identifying the health risks of each type of waste (water pollution, pathological micro-organisms,…)

Managing the different stages of waste management: collection, transport, treatment or elimination

Participants also wanted to know how to sort and recycle biomedical waste, and also how to assure their safety while transporting and treating waste. Of course, theory is necessary, but putting theory into practice in a hospital setting was the most important part. The group started on a tour of the hospital, identifying locations were waste was accumulation, learning how to work the incinerators and sorting waste: burning paper, sterilizing needles, burying placentas, collecting plastic bags, etc…

Action plan

After the training, the participants left with precise instructions on the measures to implement in their health structure to improve waste management. They also took the time to draft recommendations for everyone concerned by this problem.

The participants have committed themselves to promote the content of this workshop and to form a committee on waste management within their own structures

The ministry of health and more generally, the authorities should be reminded of the necessity to have enough tools to manage waste: incinerator, shovel, wheelbarrow, sterilizer, etc.

Pharmaceutical companies and those who deliver medical products to sanitary structures should make easily reusable packaging available or avoid individual packaging

It is very important to educate the members of the community, so that they can also contribute to better hygiene in the hospital and their own quarters