New Medical Waste Incineration Centers Come to Ethiopia


Ethiopia is constructing the first eight medical waste incineration centers, disposal facilities of medicine and clinical wastes, for a total investment of 440 million Br.

Financed by Global Fund, the turnkey project is managed by United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and will be delivered to the Pharmaceutical Fund & Supply Agency upon completion.

Incinco Ltd, a British company specializing in waste furnace machinery, will supply and install the machines, while Jambo Construction Plc, a local firm first established in 1997 as Selamawit General Constructor, will construct the centers.

The machines will be installed in Adama, Mekele, Bahir Dar, Dessie, Jima, Neqemte, Hawasa and the city of Dire Dawa.

The centers are selected geographically given their accessibility, according to Loko Abraham (MD), director general of Pharmaceutical Fund & Supply Agency.

“At the beginning operations we will be incinerating the pharmaceutical waste, drugs, and then it will start the clinical waste,” Loko told Fortune.

The incinerators are pyrolytic incinerators comprised of pyrolytic chambers where the waste is thermally decomposed through an oxygen deficient, medium-temperature combustion process in a 800-900 degree chamber. The incinerators in the post-combustion chamber minimize smoke and odors using an excess of air heated 900– 1200 degrees centigrade.

The new incineration center to be installed in Adama will have a capacity of burning 1,000kg of medical waste an hour, while the rest will burn 500kg of waste an hour. The machines have the capacity to work for 20 hours. Each center is expected to create job opportunities for 50 people.

“For our need, we will be operating the machines for eight hours a day,” commented Loko.

Studies made by Ethiopian Public Health Institute in 2018 suggests that waste generated at healthcare facilities needs an adequate and appropriate management mechanism before disposal, including all activities involved in the waste generation, segregation, transportation, storage, treatment and final disposal.

Nationally, 32.6pc of the health facilities store medical waste in a covered container, and about 27pc of health facilities save it in another protected environment. The remaining 40pc of health facilities stored their medical waste in unprotected areas, the study explains.

The study also found out that 94pc of the health facilities burn medical waste as a significant treatment method, among which only about 42pc used a standard incinerator.  The remaining facilities practice open-air incineration.

The country’s medical waste management system is hazardous, unhygienic and outdated, according to Abebe Beyene (MD), associate professor at Jima University College of public health & medical sciences with over seven years of medical health experience.

“The existing incineration releases toxic gas to the environment that would affect human breathing system,” he told Fortune.

“Even if it is late, having such kind of center is deemed necessary to Ethiopia,” said Abebe.

Yet still, he recommends that the agency install the machines with the utmost care, deliver sufficient training for the staff and the devices should get maintenance regularly.