The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has supported three health facilities with non-incineration waste management technologies (autoclaves) and other equipmentto improve healthcare waste management and reduce the release of toxic substances into the environment.
The beneficiary hospitals are the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, the Koforidua Regional Hospital, and the Tegbi Health Centre, Keta. Two other hospitals, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and Winneba Trauma Hospital, which are already using acceptable waste treatment technologies, received assorted personal protective equipment and waste bins.
Explaining the rationale behind the intervention, Mr. Richard Amfo-Otu, the National Technical Advisor of the UNDP Medical Waste project, stated that:
"The current practice at the health facilities is the use of incinerators which burn waste at low temperature. The burning of the wasteemits Unintended Persistent Organic Pollutants (UPOPs), which contain cancer causing substances and other toxic pollutants that can give various diseases including cancer, tuberculosis, cholera, when people get exposed to these infectious wastes. So, the provision of the non-incineration technologies is expected to improve the general waste management in the health sector", stated Mr. Amfo-Otu.
The goal of the Medical Waste project is to help the country to comply with the Stockholm Convention, which aims to reduce the release of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Earlier this year, about 400 mercury-free thermometers and sphygmomanometers were provided to these five facilities as part of efforts to phase-out mercury use in the health sector, under the Minamata Convention, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The project has also trained about 25 personnel from the beneficiary facilities on the operation and maintenance of the equipment.
The support provided to the facilities is expected to directly benefit more than 1,770,221 populations living in Cape Coast, Koforidua, Kumasi, Keta and Winneba, as well as many other indirect beneficiaries living around these communities and the entire country.
At a ceremony held in Cape Coast to officially commission the non-incineration waste management equipment, Dr. Daniel Asare, the Chief Executive Officer of the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, indicated that the intervention will help the beneficiary hospitals to stop burning infectious waste which is detrimental to health. He said "formerly we used to burn our waste using incinerators. But, with the autoclaves, our waste will be treated in an environmentally friendly manner and this will prevent the release of toxic substances into the environment".
The Medical Waste project is being implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, World Health Organization (WHO) and the NGO Health Care Without Harm. This is a five-year project (2016-2020) that is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It aims to introduce best environmental practices and best available technologies in four Sub-Saharan African countries, namely Ghana, Madagascar, Tanzania and Zambia, to help reduce harmful releases from the health sector.