Waste picker with a syringe from a dumpsite in Nairobi
Healthcare facilities generate waste which can lead to adverse impacts on the environment and public health if not properly managed. Contaminated needles and syringes, for example, can expose health workers, waste workers, waste pickers, and communities to blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.
A systematic review in 2009 found that healthcare waste management in 40 low- and middle-income countries pose a serious public health challenge due to the increasing quantities of waste, improper disposal methods, lack of training, insufficient financing and infrastructure, and weak governance and administration, among others.
In 2011, a report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council of the U.N. General Assembly raised concern that improper management and disposal of medical waste, including the use of open burning and most small-scale incinerators, jeopardize the enjoyment of human rights.
The UNDP GEF Project on Global Healthcare Waste tackled the urgent issue of the spread of blood-borne pathogens associated with improper handling and disposal of health-care waste, as well as the problem of environmental releases of dioxins, mercury and other pollutants associated with medical waste incineration.
The Project also dealt with concerns regarding costs and sustainability without compromising patient care and safety. The Project addressed these issues by demonstrating and promoting Best Environmental Practices and Best Available Technologies for the management of healthcare waste. This was accomplished using a variety of resources including guidances, tools, sample policies, training, and other materials.