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Hospital infections cost Sub-Saharan Africa USD 8.4B annually

Infections acquired in hospitals are costing Sub-Saharan Africa as much as $8.4 billion each year and leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, new research has found.

According to a report by WaterAid and the World Bank, at least half of these infections could be avoided by improved handwashing facilities, access to decent toilets, and proper hygiene.

Sol Oyuela, WaterAid’s Executive Director of Global Policy and Campaigns, said that the new research highlights a “bleak reality” for those living without access to clean water. “Every healthcare facility must be able to operate with these basic human rights,” she said.

The study was conducted across seven African countries, including Nigeria, Malawi and Ethiopia. It found that the financial toll of treating hospital-acquired infections in these nations amounts to 1.1 per cent of their GDP and 4.5 per cent of their healthcare budgets.

In the UK, the financial toll of such infections on GDP is just 0.14 per cent, making the economic burden nearly 10 times larger in the surveyed African countries.

The costs for these countries will only increase as antimicrobial resistance to drugs grows, WaterAid warned in a statement.

“Superbugs pay little to no respect to country borders,” said Oyuela. “As more infections become resistant to antibiotics … the threat to global public health will continue to rise putting us all at risk. This is a global fight and we are not safe until everyone is safe.”

Malawi was the worst affected, the study said, with the southeastern African nation racking up costs equivalent to 2.9 per cent of its GDP and 10.9 per cent of its annual health budget to treat hospital-acquired infections.

“In the African countries covered in this study, at least one in every 10 patients admitted to hospital is unnecessarily burdened by an additional infection circulating within the hospital,” said Guy Hutton, a water and hygiene expert who conducted the research.

“It should be the number one priority of health systems around the world to combat healthcare associated infections.” The Telegraph

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