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35 hospitals across Maharashtra are participating in the project 

160+ hospitals across India ensure near-zero infections spread of COVID-19 among waste management worker 

Dr René Van Berkel, United Nations Industrial Development Organization Representative, UNIDO Regional Office in India said that we need to halt the spread of COVID19 through all possible infection channels, including from contact with or mismanagement of infectious waste. He also added that this is possible with proven biomedical waste management practices and techniques, and never before has it been so urgent to adopt these.

He was speaking at a webinar on “Managing bio-medical waste to ensure near-zero infections spread among waste management workers” organized by Communeeti, a non-profit organization working on community-centric policymaking, in partnership with Ramaiah Medical College and supported by UNIDO-India.

UNIDO has been working to develop and implement environmentally sound practices and techniques for medical waste with 160+ hospitals across five states of Karnataka, Punjab, Odisha, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. Since the onset of COVID19, it has been reported that project interventions have resulted in achieving near-zero COVID-19 infections among waste management workers in project hospitals. It was done through a multi-faceted approach which included strict segregation and containment of waste supported by instructional videos, professional training, development and roll-out of COVID-19 specific biomedical waste rules, identification, and promotion of suppliers of waste management related goods and services.

Ms. Temsutula Imsong, the cleanliness warrior of Varanasi delivered the special remarks at the webinar. She talked about her experience of cleaning the ghats of Varanasi through community participation and how hospitals have to play an important role in the efficient handling of bio-medical waste.

The webinar witnessed a panel discussion with experts from the sector: representatives of the hospitals working under this project and from State Pollution Control Boards. Representatives from hospitals shared their experiences of managing bio-medical waste during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring near-zero infections. Representatives from State Pollution Control Boards talked about the challenges in ensuring regulatory compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic and the way ahead in the management of bio-medical waste.

Biomedical waste is a threat to global public and environmental health. Worldwide, it is estimated that at least 5.2 million people, including 4 million children, die each year because of diseases related to unmanaged medical waste. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, the surge in infectious waste from healthcare facilities as well as residential and other sectors has become a new major threat to public health and the environment. Improper handling of biomedical wastes from hospitals adds to the spread of COVID19. The safe handling and final disposal of this waste is therefore a vital element in an effective emergency response to the pandemic.

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