Baby Gladys is delivered with clean hands in a safe environment

The clean hands protected her and mother from diseases and infections

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
newborn health, maternal health, clean hands, safe hands, everychildalive, ECA, water, WASH in health facilities
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Adriko
01 April 2020

When babies are delivered in a health facility with uninterrupted clean and safe water, the chances of their survival are greater, especially for the first days of their lives. 

Meet baby Gladys, only 15 hours old. She was born in Mungula Health Centre in Adjumani District, West Nile region Uganda. Her mother, Christine Akello, lovingly looks down at her newborn’s face as she celebrates her arrival at a facility she describes as clean and hygienic.

Unlike Gladys, many babies die before they turn a month old, and many on the day they are born due to preventable causes like infections. Many of these needless deaths could be avoided if health facilities had access to clean and safe water, soap, good sanitation, quality healthcare services and trained health workers. 

Luckily Gladys was born in a clean and safe environment and with the help of sanitized hands, thanks to the constant water supply in the delivery room. The tap with water is positioned next to the delivery beds to support safe deliveries of babies. There is plenty of soap too. 

The water available all the time, is provided by a solar powered mini-water system constructed by UNICEF with financial assistance from the Government of Japan. 

Access to clean and safe water during delivery protected baby Gladys and her mother from diseases and infections.

Christine recalls that the midwife washed her hands several times during the process – “Before examining me, before delivery. She also cleaned me and my baby after delivery.”

In the past, mothers who delivered at Mungula Health Centre IV risked getting infections during deliveries and after, due to inadequate water supply resulting from a malfunctional water system. Health workers relied on water provided by the patients and their attendants and any delays meant mothers gave birth in unhygienic conditions. 

Dropia Sarah, the enrolled midwife who delivered Gladys, confirms that the clean and safe water in the delivery room has greatly improved the quality of services provided and it has also reduced infections.

 “Before we received this water, mothers were tasked to bring jerrycans of water to the maternity ward before delivery. If one was admitted for a Caesarian section, the mother would have to come with six jerrycans (20 litres each) to support the procedure. The situation was bad, she says.

maternal health, newborn health, health workers, safe hands, clean hands, hospital deliveries, babies
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Adriko

“Care for a newborn starts when they are still in the womb. When the mothers arrive, we ask them to bathe, admit them in an already clean labour suite, we wash our hands with this clean and safe water and ensure we deliver their babies in a clean environment,”

Sarah narrates

To guarantee the quality of healthcare in rural health centres like Mungula, UNICEF has focused on improving water supply, sanitation and hygiene facilities, to benefit children and women of childbearing age. Specific emphasis has been put on the delivery rooms to ensure newborns are delivered with clean and safe hands. 

Clean, safe water and good sanitation for mothers supports their recovery and that of their babies during the first hours of life according to UNICEF’s Paul Semakula, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist.

Christine and the other mothers on the ward take turns to chat as they celebrate their babies, breastfeed and share their joy at their babies’ good health. Since her arrival at the facility, Christine has used the water for drinking, washing clothes, and bathing her baby and herself.

The funding from the Government of Japan has also supported the construction of two latrine blocks at the health facility, complete with a bathing room for women. “The toilets have a separate bathing room with a constant water flow. It is so near, I can collect it myself,” says Christine.