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Small-scale healthcare activities, such as rural health posts, immunization posts, reproductive health posts, mobile and emergency healthcare programs, and urban clinics and small hospitals, provide important and often critical healthcare services to individuals and communities that would otherwise have little or no access to such services. The medical and health services they provide improve family planning, nurture child and adult health, prevent disease, cure debilitating illnesses, and alleviate the suffering of the dying.

Currently, little management of healthcare wastes occurs in many small-scale facilities in developing countries. Training and infrastructure are minimal. A common practice in urban areas is to dispose of healthcare waste along with the general solid waste or, in peri-urban and rural areas, to bury waste, without treatment. In some cities and towns, small hospitals may incinerate waste in dedicated on-site incinerators, but often fail to operate them properly. Unwanted pharmaceuticals and chemicals may be dumped into the local sanitation outlet, be it a sewage system, septic tank or latrine. These practices present often significant risks to health. This Healthcare Waste Sector Environmental Guideline provides information on how to mitigate these and other environmental hazards related to healthcare waste management activities.