Low-Cost Technology Prevents Infections, Reduces Diarrhea in Eritrea

In many resource-constrained settings, inadequate infrastructure and poor infection prevention practices make hospitals “hotbeds of infection transmission,” placing patients— particularly the most vulnerable—at risk ofhospital-acquired infections, with accompanying increases in costs of care, length of hospital stay, and even case fatality rates.

In Eritrea, USAID-supported technical assistance through URC’s TASC2 Project and Quality Assurance Project (QAP) helped the Ministry of Health to improving infection prevention policies and practices in the country’s public hospitals. Considerable progress was made in defining national standards and guidelines for infection prevention, organizing Infection Prevention (IP) Committees in facilities, and engaging committees in executing regular IP assessments to verify that appropriate infection prevention procedures were indeed being followed in key areas of each facility.

Despite these efforts, a persistent barrier to infection prevention in Ministry of Health hospitals was the scarcity of low cost disinfectant, which often had to be imported at high cost, due to the irregular quality of locally manufactured chlorine solutions and frequent interruptions in the supply network.

In 2005, TASC2 and QAP introduced in Eritrean hospitals a low-cost technology to overcome this problem: a sodium hypochlorite generator permitting the local production of disinfectant at each regional hospital. Sodium hypochlorite at a 0.6% solution is a safe and very effective disinfectant for health equipment and facilities. It can also be diluted for laundry, general hygiene and kitchen use within the facility. In small quantities, 0.6% sodium hypochlorite is the disinfectant of choice for point-of-use-water purification for drinking purposes and its use can assure a safe hospital water supply.