PAHO leads preparation of national plans for COVID-19 related solid waste management in 16 countries

Reunión Taller Regional de Gestion de Residuos en Panama

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in healthcare waste and its environmental impacts in the region as efforts to protect healthcare personnel and the general population continue.

Panama, February 28, 2023 (PAHO/OMS). The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC) are holding the Regional Workshop on Waste Management in the Context of COVID-19 and other Emerging and Reemerging Diseases in Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama City.

Sixteen countries and one territory from the region are participating in the workshop, which runs from today until March 3. The aim is to provide training and support to personnel designated by the Ministries of Health and Environment in developing national roadmaps for comprehensive solid waste management.

These guides will be developed based on the results of the survey "Environmental Health Impact Assessment of the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Chain with a Focus on Waste Management in Health Facilities " in 2022. In addition, they will include actions to improve infrastructure and basic environmental services in healthcare centers, as well as to reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impact.

The focus of this project was on waste management aspects that are considered in the ecological and sustainable management supply chain (WHO 2021). The aim was to identify the current state of hospital waste management with reference to the framework for managing the COVID-19 pandemic. "With the collaboration of PAHO's national focal points, as well as personnel from the Ministries of Health and Environment of each country, data were collected on hospital waste management processes in each location," explained Dr. Francisco Sanchez, Regional Advisor for Health, Environment and Climate Change.

During the opening session, Dr. Leah Richards, PAHO Representative in Panama, emphasized the importance of the participation of countries from the three subregions of the Americas in this workshop, as waste management is a relevant problem for cooperation. She also stressed that it is crucial to continue improving waste management processes in our countries, and in Panama, actions can be supported through the work developed during this workshop.

The workshop will include dialogue activities focused on the formulation of national plans with the focal points of the countries that responded to the survey and the collaboration of PAHO experts. The impacts of poor waste management and climate change are felt especially in vulnerable and resource-poor communities, which lack resilient and safely managed water and sanitation supplies and have low-quality healthcare.

"This activity will contribute to the challenge of 120 clean, healthy, and safe cities set by PAHO in celebration of its 120th anniversary. This includes enhancing environmental conditions in these cities such as reducing pollution, mitigating water quality risks, managing the impacts of climate change, and promoting proper waste management," said Dr. Daniel Buss, Head of the Climate Change and Environmental Determinants of Health Unit (CDE/CE).