Availability of adequate, safe water and sanitation is critical during the continuum of care; from pregnancy to delivery, throughout the postpartum period, and also throughout the life of a mother and her child.
Exposure to unsafe water and sanitation and poor waste management in health facilities increases the risk of infections in both mothers and babies. Women going into labour should have access to safe health facilities with:
- consistent, predictable running clean water,
- clean toilets,
- safe refuse disposal,
- clean beds,
- areas for deliveries.
Failure to implement basic clean birth practices such as hand washing, clean equipment and cord-cutting can adversely affect mortality outcomes.
Access to clean water and sanitation (WASH) is proven to significantly contribute to the well-being and health of mothers and their newborns.
Our MamaYe Super Activists from Traditional Authority Kampingo Sibande, south of Mzimba district in Malawi, have been addressing this issue for the Chikangawa Health Centre. During a recent activity, Eliza Kaliyande, alongside a group of Super Activists, organised a march where they delivered a petition to the ward councillor asking him to address some of the shortfalls at the health facility, including lack of clean water. On the day Eliza commented:
By ensuring that childbirth is clean and safe, infections can be prevented and lives can be saved.
Sepsis – the silent killer
An estimated 1 in 10 maternal deaths worldwide are caused by sepsis (Say et al. 2014). Many new mothers suffer from delivery-related trauma such as perineum rupture and obstetric fistula, with two million young mothers in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia living with untreated obstetric fistula (WHO 2014). These women need access to adequate water and sanitation for their personal hygiene as it is vital to prevent infections.
Babies are most vulnerable to life-threatening infections, such as sepsis and tetanus, immediately or shortly after birth. Sadly, every year 1,027,000 newborn babies die in sub-Saharan Africa; 181,000 of these deaths are caused by sepsis – that’s 1 out of every 6 newborn deaths that could easily be prevented.
Speak to your government today:
- Ask your local leaders and your national government to ensure that water and sanitation (WASH) is embedded into all plans for reducing maternal and newborn deaths, including standards for maternal and neonatal care and in broader health system planning, ensuring integration between WASH and health targets, such as Universal Health Coverage.
- Ask your national leaders to prioritise adequate financial resources to WASH, resources to cover costs for hospital and health clinic infrastructure, ensuring WASH is sustainable.
- Remind your national leaders that the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), goals that 194 countries of the UN General Assembly committed to in September 2015, included the target of ‘By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations’ (SDG 6.2) as well as two targets especially vital to us here at E4A-MamaYe.