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Within the Health, Climate, and Security Nexus, Prevention is Better than a Cure

By Kelly Bridges

During the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, healthcare workers were contracting Ebola at an alarming rate. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that those fighting Ebola at the frontlines–in clinics and hospitals–were up to 32 times more likely to contract the disease than the rest of the population. Among the principal reasons why was the lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services in healthcare facilities, which rendered healthcare workers unable to wash their hands and disinfect surfaces. At the time, UNICEF reported that the demand for running water in Sierra Leonean healthcare facilities outstripped supply, as safely treating patients with Ebola requires 140 liters per day per patient. The most recent data from 2021 show that a staggering 80% of healthcare facilities in the West African country are without basic water services and less than 1% of its population has piped water at home. Globally, a quarter of all healthcare facilities are without basic water services and in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which includes Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo–the latest country to fight an Ebola outbreak–this number grows to half of all healthcare facilities. Without access to WASH services in healthcare settings and in communities at-large, global health security cannot be achieved. 

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