Reducing UPOPs and Mercury releases from the Health Sector in Ghana
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a group of toxic chemicals that are persistent in the environment and travel long distances via air and water. Exposure to such chemicals can cause cancer and other adverse health effects. Mercury on the hand, is a naturally-occurring chemical element which appears in several forms. They are elemental (metallic) mercury, inorganic mercury compounds and methylmercury. Mercury releases exposes humans and the environment to several dangers. For humans, exposure to mercury have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes. The healthcare sector in Africa is a major source of UPOPs and mercury releases into the environment. This may be attributed to lack of appropriate strategies, poor implementation of best environmental practices and inability to afford and use best available treatment technologies.
In a bid to support Ghana to improve upon health care waste management for sustainable development, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) has provided funding to implement a Full-size pilot project entitled Reducing UPOPs and Mercury Releases from the Health Sector in Africa. This project is being implemented in three other African countries, namely Madagascar, Tanzania and Zambia.
The project aims to reduce the reliance of African countries on mercury-containing devices and heavily polluting incineration technologies and create a tipping point for the use of mercury free devices and non-incineration technologies which will generate significantly less air pollutants than incinerators and other high-heat thermal processes. It is also expected that the use of non-incineration technologies will provide the opportunity to recycle disinfected waste fractions, plastics, and allow health care facilities to reduce their costs for waste treatment, by selling shredded plastics to recyclers. Specifically, the project seeks to achieve the following objectives:
1. Promote best practices and techniques for health-care waste management with the aim of minimizing or eliminating releases of POPs to help countries meet their obligations under the Stockholm Convention on POPs;
2. support Ghana in phasing-down the use of mercury containing medical devices and products, while improving practices for mercury containing wastes with the objective to reduce releases of mercury in support of the countries’ future obligations under the Minamata Convention on Mercury;
3. improve the healthcare waste management chain (e.g. classification, segregation, storage, transport and disposal) to reduce the spread of infections both at healthcare facility level as well as places where healthcare waste is being handled.
The project seeks to achieve the abovementioned objectives through the following components:
● Dissemination of technical guidelines for project implementation in countries, establishment of criteria for midterm evaluation and the building of teams of national experts to support implementation in project countries.
● Support the review/development of national policies and guidelines to regulate Healthcare Waste Management (HCWM) in the project countries.
● Make available affordable non-incineration HCWM systems and mercury-free devices that conform to international standards.
● Demonstration of best HCWM systems, recycling, mercury waste management and mercury reduction in selected model health facilities, and establish national training infrastructure.
● Evaluation of the capacities of recipient countries to absorb additional non-incineration technologies and mercury-free devices, and distribute technologies based on the results of a midterm evaluation.
● Expand HCWM systems and the phase-out of mercury in the recipient countries through the provision of additional non-incineration technologies and mercury free devices to reach more health facilities.
Accomplishments – progress and key achievements (as of 30 June 2017)
● Partnership has been established between Ghana Health Service and Zoompak Ghana Limited to provide best HCWM services to some health facilities in the Greater Accra region.
● Ministry of Health’s Policy and Guidelines on Health Care Waste management have been reviewed to guide healthcare waste management in Ghana; Standard Operating Procedures have been developed to support implementation of the Policy and Guidelines in health facilities.
● Training has been provided for some national officers working in health and environment sector on best practices in HCWM.
● The Koforidua Regional Hospital, Capecoast Teaching Hospital, Winneba Trauma hospital, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and the Tegbi Health Centre are being prepared to receive non-mercury containing thermometers, sphygmomanometers and training in Healthcare waste management. Additionally, the Koforidua Regional Hospital, Cape Coast Teaching Hospital and the Tegbi Health centre shall receive autoclaves to support the treatment of healthcare waste.
The project budget (for Ghana) is $615,601. Donor: Global Environment Facility (GEF).