A new research has revealed that lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene in birth settings is killing mothers and newborns in the developing world.
WaterAid and the London School of Hygiene andTropical Medicine have joined the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNFPA, SHARE Research Consortium and other organisations in a call to protect the lives of new mothers and their babies, by improving access to safe water, basic sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities and homes.
Policy analyst Yael Velleman said that people have known since Victorian times about the importance of clean water and good hygiene in birth and yet today tens of thousands of mothers will be giving birth in places where doctors and midwives, if present, do not have access to clean water. The process of giving life should not mean unduly risking death.
Velleman added that health agencies and governments have encouraged women to give birth in hospitals and clinics to give them a better chance of surviving complications, but if those environments are dirty, without safe water, basic toilets and a way to keep patients, beds and instruments clean, women are reluctant to seek them out for fear of exposing themselves and their babies to deadly infection.
Velleman continued that as governments work to help women and their babies survive childbirth, they must not neglect these basic building blocks of health care and in coming months, there is a chance to address these desperate needs in new Sustainable Development Goals now under discussion at the UN.
Lead author of the companion paper, Lenka Benova, said that nearly 8,000 women in Tanzania die each year in or immediately after childbirth. Sepsis from infection causes at least 10 percent of these deaths and nearly half of women, and disproportionately the country's poorest, are giving birth at home, and almost none of these homes have clean water and basic sanitation, but women cannot be expected to go to a health facility to deliver if it is dirty.
Benova added that this situation is not limited to Tanzania and their hope is these findings will guide future work on UN development goals and make the provision of these services a priority, when trying to improve the health of new mothers and their babies.
The study is published in PLOS Medicine and PLOS ONE.