March 23, 2015
The WaterAid has launched a new four-year “Healthy Start” campaign showing the devastating impact that a lack of safe water and sanitation has on the health of children in developing countries.
The launch was part of activities commemorating the 2015 World Water Day, held yesterday March 22 under the theme ‘Water and Sustainable Development.’
The briefing “Healthy Start: the first month of life” shows that annually nearly half a million babies die in the first month of life because they are born into unhygienic conditions and one in five deaths of newborn babies in the developing world are caused by infections strongly linked to dirty water or unhygienic conditions. In Nigeria, nearly 52,000 newborn babies died from sepsis, tetanus and other infections linked to dirty water and lack of hygiene in 2013 alone.
The goal for “Healthy Start” is that decision leaders and policy makers ensure that survival rates and health outcomes are improved for children by integrating water, sanitation and hygiene within their policies, activities and rhetoric. It in particular aims at making sure that the health sector joins with the water and sanitation sector in delivering water, sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030 as an essential requirement for increasing the numbers of children who have healthy childhoods, better prospects for healthy lives and for leaving poverty behind.
The campaign launches as a recently released World Health Organization report reveals that nearly half of hospitals and clinics in Africa do not have access to clean water. And of the 58% of healthcare facilities that have some access, only half are able to count on a safe and reliable supply of clean water.
The World Health Organization report “Water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities: status in low and middle income countries and way forward” shows that across 18 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, access to water in healthcare facilities is as low as 20%. It is the first survey of its kind and shows that in the 54 developing countries studied, 38% of healthcare facilities do not have clean water and 19% do not have safe toilets. Over a third (35%) of hospitals and clinics did not have anywhere for staff or patients to wash their hands with soap.
The WaterAid briefing highlights the risks presented to babies by healthcare facilities that do not offer a hygienic birth environment. It outlines measures needed to ensure that every healthcare facility has clean running water, safe toilets and sinks with soap available to staff and patients.
Dr. Michael Ojo, WaterAid Nigeria’s Country Representative says, “Being born into unhygienic conditions condemns too many babies in the Nigeria and the developing world to a tragically early and avoidable death and their parents to needless heartbreak. Tragically for these one in five babies who die in their first month in the developing world, just being washed in clean water and cared for in a clean environment by people who had washed their hands could have prevented their untimely deaths. We want the global community to commit to ensuring everyone has access to safe water and sanitation by 2030.”
Diarrhoea is the second biggest child killer in Nigeria and nearly 100,000 children under the age of five die of diarrhoea in Nigeria every year as a result of the nation’s poor levels of access to water and sanitation.