We all sit and watch the reports from the war torn parts of the world or we hear of the experiences from active service men and women in the media, but do we ever consider the issue of cleanliness and hygiene in these areas? It is a long time since the works of Florence Nightingale delivering her excellent control of infection processes in the Crimea, but the need for infection controls and effective hygiene practice is more paramount than ever before, particularly in a war torn environment.
Environmental services are a major player at the front end and front line of our armed forces where most of us never give a thought for this activity. Here we should consider the experience of hospitals at the front line, setting up of hospital camps, fighting infection outbreaks, supporting the combat troops or those forces deployed on humanitarian roles. These operations are not immune to the same risks as in normal life but have added environmental risks alongside the consequences of war.
Each year our cleaning industry colleagues from the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners recognise some of this expertise with their ‘Military Awards’.
To briefly share some of the award winner’s experiences will highlight the great part cleaning plays in keeping our forces personnel safe. These include managing heat disease infection in the hot summers in Cyprus, controlling healthcare sickness on board ships, active service environmental checks making it ‘safe’ to go into war zone operations. Naturally MRSA is as much a concern alongside the everyday incidents of diarrhoea and vomiting. The citations are a humbling experience and listening to their achievements in very difficult conditions brings a lump to your throat, so here we acknowledge:
On active service in Afghanistan supporting operation Herrick and Camp Bastion where she was one of the last personnel to leave.
Based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus enhancing community EH aware-ness, controlling sickness outbreaks in extreme heat conditions for both active colleagues and also in their family communities.
Who successfully led an investigation into an infectious disease outbreak at a remote Forward Operating Base, effectively liaising with the Chain of Command to implement decisive but simple control measures, halting the outbreak and preventing further incidence of illness and thereby enabling operations in the area to continue. Disease and Non-Battle Injury rates were minimised during this period of withdrawal when personnel were living again in extremely austere conditions; similarly, he provided essential advice and guidance to the planning process for the move to an expeditionary footing at Camp Bastion where the infrastructure was being removed making life harder for those remaining.
Providing Tropical Medicine assessments and delivery of the Army Tactical Medical Intelligence for the hazards that our troops will face.
Brave personnel travel to the wost areas of Sierra Leone and Liberia without thought for themselves. With the current lack of education about fighting infections, sharing knowledge of cleaning practice standards are vital for successful infection control practice and procedure implantation.
Such activity delivers a legacy of best cleaning practice so especially at this time of year remember, lest we forget, to Florence Nightingale and all others that share experiences of war – cleanliness matters!