A shocking report from the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed Tuesday that about half of healthcare providers worldwide do not have basic hygiene services even though patients receive care in their facilities.

According to the latest Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) report by the organization and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), around 3.85 billion are at greater risk of infection by using healthcare facilities lacking basic hygiene services, including water and soap and alcohol-based hand rubs.

WHO said that the latest figures paint a clearer and more alarming picture of the state of hygiene in healthcare facilities worldwide. The organization also noted that around 668 million people across the globe receive care at facilities without any hygiene services at all.

“Hygiene facilities and practices in health care settings are non-negotiable. Their improvement is essential to pandemic recovery, prevention and preparedness. Hygiene in health care facilities cannot be secured without increasing investments in basic measures, which include safe water, clean toilets, and safely managed health care waste,” Dr. Maria Neira said in a press release.

The WHO director for its Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health added, “I encourage Member States to step up their efforts to implement their 2019 World Health Assembly commitment to strengthen water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in health care facilities, and to monitor these efforts.”

Per collected data, 68% of healthcare facilities, including hospitals and health centers, had hygiene services at points of care, while 65% had handwashing facilities with water and soap in toilets. However, only 51% had both, and only 1 in 11 (9%) facilities had neither. The latest report presented data from 2000 to 2021.

“Hospitals and clinics without safe water and basic hygiene and sanitation services are a potential death trap for pregnant mothers, newborns, and children. Every year, around 670,000 newborns lose their lives to sepsis. This is a travesty – even more so as their deaths are preventable,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, the UNICEF director of WASH and Climate, Environment, Energy and Disaster Risk Reduction (CEED).

Contaminated hands and environments make it easy for pathogens to infect people. So the users of the healthcare facilities with insufficient hygiene services are at high risk. Interventions to increase access to proper handwashing and cleaning materials could make a difference in providing quality care to patients, according to WHO.