Some 2 billion people around the world use health facilities that lack basic water services, a United Nations report has found.
Data showed that around 1 in 4 health facilities lacked basic water services. In the poorest countries, about half of the facilities had inadequate water services.
The inability to access clean water puts birthing mothers and newborns at risk. The UN said that more than a million deaths a year were associated with unclean births, while the infection rate for all patients attending a health facility was 15 percent.
"Hospitals are not necessarily points of care where you can heal, but points of almost infection. (We) are very alarmed by this," said Bruce Gordon, a World Health Organization (WHO) coordinator.
Around the world, nearly 900 million people have no access to clean water at their local health centers or have to use unprotected wells. One in five centers also lack toilets, impacting about 1.5 billion people.
World leaders agreed to make access to clean water and sanitation by the year 2030 one of the 2015 development goals.
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Global health threats
Clean water and sanitation services are important to stopping the spread of deadly superbugs.
"The battle to save lives, and to slow the rise of deadly superbugs which threaten us all, cannot be won as long as these dedicated frontline staff are denied ... the fundamentals of health care," said Helen Hamilton, an analyst at WaterAid, a charity.
She urged governments to prioritize the issue when they meet at next month's World Health Assembly in Geneva.
av/amp (dpa, Reuters)