One in five newborn deaths in Nepal could be prevented with safe water, sanitation and clean hands.
WaterAid today launched its new “Healthy Start” campaign showing the devastating impact that a lack of safe water and sanitation has on children in developing countries.
Released today the briefing “Healthy Start: the first month of life” show that annually nearly half a million babies die in the first month of life because they are born into unhygienic conditions. In Nepal, 2,500 new-born babies died from sepsis, tetanus and other infections linked to dirty water and lack of hygiene in 2013 alone.
The campaign launches as a World Health Organization report reveals that more than one-third of hospitals and clinics in 54 developing countries do not have access to clean water. And of the 62% 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 the developing world, access to water in healthcare facilities is as low as 20% - as is the case in Mali. The first survey of its kind, it also shows that in the 54 developing countries studied 19% of healthcare facilities do not have basic toilets. Over one-third (35%) of hospitals and clinics did not have anywhere for staff or patients to wash their hands with soap.
In Nepal over one in six (16%) hospitals and clinics did not have access to clean water and nearly a third (29%) did not have safe toilets. Eight out of ten (81%) did not have anywhere to wash hands with soap.
“Water, sanitation and hygiene related ailments and diseases still fall under the 10 most prevalent diseases in Nepal. Study carried by Nepal Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (NMICS) 2014 shows that 37% of children under the age of five are stunted and 30% are underweight,” said Tripti Rai, WaterAid Country Representative to Nepal.
Early childhood development is said to take place during these formative years. When children are faced with such poor conditions of water and sanitation, even to the extent of dire scarcity, they cannot get a healthy start to life. It is unjust that children should face such appalling conditions, when these are easily preventable.
Access to Safe and affordable water and sanitation can ensure child health, contribute to the overall wellbeing of a child, thus it is urgent that we take collective action.’'
The figures are all the more shocking as even if hospitals and clinics are defined as having access to clean water, the water supply may be up to half a kilometre away from the facility rather than piped into the premises. Additionally there is limited data as to whether toilets in healthcare facilities are in working order and can be used by both staff and patients.
Tragically for 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. In Nepal one woman in every 96 will on average lose a baby to infection during her lifetime compared to one in 7,518 in the UK.
The WaterAid briefing highlights the risks presented to babies by healthcare facilities that do not offer a hygienic birth environment. It sets out what is needed to support health agencies, ministries and donor governments to put clean at the heart of healthcare by ensuring that every healthcare facility has clean running water, safe toilets and sinks with soap available to staff and patients.
The briefing marks the start of “Healthy Start”, WaterAid’s four-year campaign which focuses on the devastating impacts of the lack of safe water and sanitation, and poor hygiene practices, on the health of children
The United Nations is currently deciding on the Sustainable Development Goals, which will be successors to the Millennium Development Goals. WaterAid is calling for a dedicated goal to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030, including in all healthcare facilities.