Improved water, sanitation and hygiene facilities attract more hospital deliveries

“If you have no water and proper sanitation in a health facility, you are doing nothing.”

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
maternal and newborn health
UNICEF Uganda/2019/Abdul

17 April 2019

Four years ago, when Onyang Mary, 23-year-old and a mother of three delivered her first child at Nabilatik Health Centre IV, she had to carry water from home, for health workers to utilize during and after delivery. Heavy, big and tired, Onyang checked into the labour ward with a ten litre jerry can full of water, on her head which she collected from a faraway borehole, on her way to the facility.

The situation was not any different for Anyakun Valentina, 30-year-old mother of three, who delivered her first child at the same health facility, five years ago. Unfortunately, Anyakun, didn’t come with any water as she was weak, already in labour and supported by a very young attendant who couldn’t carry the water. With no water after delivery, Anyakun spent 48 hours at the facility without taking a bathe and only had one at home after she was discharged!!!

“Not even my fellow mothers on the ward could spare any drop for me to use, there was just no water at all in the ward, save for those who had attendants who collected it from faraway places including a river.” “I felt dirty and I was smelling,”

she added.

Back then, the health facility lacked water and heavily relied on one borehole which was shared by patients, staff and the community and often broke down. Onyang shares that the maternity ward was very dirty, with a bad stench and the facility compound littered with feaces.

“We feared that we would catch diseases from the facility and many mothers avoided the facility and preferred to give birth at home and only took their children to the health facility for immunisation.”

But the situation has since changed. Two years ago, UNICEF with funding from the Korean International Cooperation Agency KOICA installed a solar powered water system that provides constant sufficient clean and safe water (approximately 93,000 litres are pumped daily) in the facility that serves a population of 250 people a day. Taps have been installed in the compound for the patients attending both inpatient and outpatient departments. Mothers with their children are seen drinking the water and quenching their thirst, the water is readily available. The water is utilized to clean the wards, toilets and wash rooms in the facility.

In addition, the water had been extended to critical points in the health facility like the maternity ward, theatre and the laboratory. The testimonies from the health workers in those areas are moving. The constant water supply has enabled them control infections, supported hygiene and cleanliness in their work stations and boosted the dignity of their patients.

A stroll in the maternity ward is met with smiling faces of mothers with their new born babies, in a clean and very hygienic environment. There is no fear of infections for the new born babies as the mothers have been instructed to wash their hands with soap and water before touching the babies, breastfeeding, etc. The water is available all the time. Today, the maternity section boosts of an average of 50 deliveries a month compared to 20 deliveries when they lacked water in the facility.

Onyang is one of the satisfied mothers on the ward, she delivered her third born baby boy three days ago. She now shares her experience at the facility after the provision of clean and safe water in the maternity ward.

“When I arrived on Sunday, I didn’t come with any water this time. Upon arrival, the health worker requested me to bathe before delivery. There was plenty of water and it was very near the new wash rooms. I felt clean after the shower.” “After delivery, I also had a bath.”

she says.

In addition to the constant water supply, UNICEF with KOICA funding has also provided latrine stances for women and wash rooms, latrines for staff, waste disposal pits and incinerators. Patients with disabilities too have their own toilet stance. This has greatly improved the hygiene and sanitation conditions at the facility.

“I was happy to use the new washrooms and the latrines. The old bath shelters were not private, and they were dirty. The old latrines too had cracks and we feared that they would fall on us,"

Onyang continues.

Dr. Peter Lokwang, the District Health Officer and In-charge of the health facility cannot agree more. He says that before the WASH facilities were constructed, there was a lot of open defecation at the facility that had one cracked latrine and no water. “If you have no water and proper sanitation in a health facility, you are doing nothing.” “Before we got this water, patients risked getting infections like sepsis, urinary tract infections and other hygiene related illness due to lack of water and proper sanitation facilities. Today, this is no more. We have a clean health facility which is providing quality health care services to the patients. “

“Today, every mother who starts labour, rushes to the health centre even if it is late in the night because others have told them the facility is clean, water is available, and the services are better,”

Onyang shares.

A total of 18 health centres in eight districts – Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Napak, Kotido, Abim, Nabilatuk, Kotido and Kaabong, Karamoja sub-region have benefited from the interventions aimed at upgrading WASH facilities in health centres.