Dr René Van Berkel, a representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) regional office in India, stressed on the need to halt the spread of Covid-19 through all possible infection channels, including from contact with or mismanagement of infectious waste. He said it 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” organised by Communeeti, a non-profit organisation working on community-centric policy making, in partnership with Ramaiah Medical College and supported by UNIDO-India. As many as 35 Covid-19 hospitals, including some from Pune, attended the webinar.
UNIDO has been working to develop and implement environmentally sound practices and techniques for medical waste with more than 160 hospitals across Karnataka, Punjab, Odisha, Maharashtra and Gujarat. “Since the onset of Covid-19, 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 that 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,” Dr Berkel said.
Temsutula Imsong, a 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 efficient handling of bio-medical waste.
The webinar saw a panel discussion with experts from representatives of hospitals working under the project and state pollution control boards. Representatives from hospitals shared their experiences of managing bio-medical waste during the pandemic. Representatives from state pollution control boards talked about the challenges in ensuring regulatory compliance during the pandemic and the way ahead in management of bio-medical waste.
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