- Says unsound management could cause unforeseen knock-on effects on human health and the environment.
- Kenya currently has 50 confirmed cases and is in the process of procuring protective personal equipment.
Waste generated during the coronavirus pandemic must be managed well to minimise the possible secondary impacts on health and the environment.
The United Nations Environment Programme has said during such an outbreak, many types of additional medical and hazardous waste are generated, including infected masks, gloves and other protective equipment, together with a higher volume of non-infected items of the same nature.
“Unsound management of this waste could cause unforeseen “knock-on” effects on human health and the environment,” it said in a statement.
Kenya currently has 50 confirmed cases and is in the process of procuring protective personal equipment for health workers.
Unep said safe handling and final disposal of this waste is a vital element in an effective emergency response.
The global environmental agency said the effective management of biomedical and healthcare waste requires appropriate identification, collection, separation, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal, as well as important associated aspects including disinfection, personnel protection and training.
Unep said the UN Basel Convention’s Technical Guidelines on the Environmentally Sound Management of Biomedical and Healthcare Wastes includes information and practical aspects of waste management useful for authorities seeking to minimise hazards to human health and the environment.
The convention, which Kenya is a party to, seeks to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous waste.
It was negotiated in the late 1980s before coming into force in 1992. Unep said the safe management of household waste is also likely to be critical during the Covid-19 emergency.
“Medical waste such as contaminated masks, gloves, used or the expired medicines, and other items can easily become mixed with domestic garbage, but should be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of separately.”
Unep said such waste should be separately stored from other household waste streams and collected by specialist municipality or waste management operators.
The BRS Executive Secretary, Rolph Payet said, “All branches of society are coming together to collectively beat the virus and to minimise the human and economic impact of Covid-19 across the world.
"In tackling this enormous and unprecedented challenge, I urge decision-makers at every level: international, national, and at municipal, city and district levels, to make every effort to ensure that waste management, including that from medical and household sources, is given the attention – indeed priority – it requires in order to ensure the minimisation of impacts upon human health and the environment from these potentially hazardous waste streams.”
Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya