How UNDP Supports Jordan Handling Medical Waste Amid Pandemic

March 19, 2020

An autoclave installed by the UNDP at one of Jordan's public hospitals

Amman- As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 has become a pandemic, threatening to overwhelm health services and harm vulnerable economies. UNDP Jordan is working with its partners to combat the spread of the disease and to support Jordan’s health systems.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has embarked on a new project to vastly improve medical waste management in several Jordanian healthcare facilities by introducing new medical waste disposal technologies.

The project has installed seven medical waste sterilization devices, known as autoclaves which sterilize medical waste before it goes to municipal dumping sites. UNDP has also provided 14 hospitals with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other necessary material to improve healthcare waste disposal.

New technology

This support to Jordan’s health system comes as part of UNDP-Global Environment Facility (GEF) partnership on Reduction and Elimination of Persistent Organic Pollutants Project, to eliminate environmentally hazardous components that adversely affect public health and the environment.

“Amidst the outbreak of coronavirus, our support today comes to strengthen Jordan’s waste management, including medical waste treatment and disposal,” said, UNDP Resident Representative, Sara Ferrer Olivella, indicating, we must do our utmost in these critical times to ensure no exposure to infectious agents and toxic substances.

“Safe and effective treatment of hazardous medical waste using latest technologies will save the lives of hospital patients, health workers, and the general public” she added.

Prior to this project, medical waste was sterilized by old incineration devices, which are not within the environmental performance standards, particularly the capability to control air emissions.

Another four sterilization units will be installed in public and military hospitals as part of the project, currently being implemented by Jordan’s Ministry of Environment and UNDP Jordan.

International standards

This project provided technical support to hospitals with waste minimization, recycling, handling, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal options and training for staff.  

As the country is facing coronavirus outbreak, Jordan’s Ministry of Health and other hospital operators have recognized the limitations of the conventional incineration technology and have initiated a strategy of replacing small on-site incinerators with sterilization equipment. 

Jordan has 21 operational incineration units and 20 non-combustion medical waste treatment units, primarily autoclaves, which are machine used to carry out industrial and scientific processes requiring elevated temperature and pressure in relation to ambient pressure or temperature.

It is estimated that 10-25 per cent of the generated total medical waste is infectious and requires special treatment.

Highlighting UNDP’s intervention, Salah Hyari, Director of Environmental Health at the Ministry of Health said it will advance Jordan’s medical waste management system.

“This project will help Jordan complete the cycle by replacing healthcare waste incineration with environmentally friendly autoclaving devices which will reduce the amount of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) emissions and provide a healthy environment for healthcare waste workers,” he said.

The project has also focused on bringing international standards capacity building for 400 health workers dealing with medical waste in hospitals across Jordan. In addition, for smaller hospitals without autoclaving survives, UNDP has provided two vehicles equipped according to WHO standards and guidelines to ensure the safe transportation of medical waste.