Maternal and child health: what’s water got to do with it?

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Maternal and child health: what’s water got to do with it?

Midwife at Uganda’s Kawolo Hospital proudly displays the water tank installed by H2O 4 ALL, which provides clean water for drinking, washing and cleaning.

We are proud of our work with Save the Mothers (STM), which delivers sustainable water sources to Mother Baby Friendly Hospitals to improve quality of care for pregnant and delivering mothers. Through our strategic partnership with STM, we have combined STM’s relationships within health facilities with the technical health and engineering expertise of H2O 4 ALL; this partnership ensures the successful implementation of safe water systems and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) education promotion. For example, our work at Kawolo Hospital’s maternity ward in Uganda eliminated sepsis infection within six months; the sepsis rate remains zero today, five years later.

The lack of water for healthcare services is largely looked over when the focus is on providing drinkable water and WaSH services to households. However, communities and households lacking in basic water infrastructure and drinkable water are often in peril of their health and require medical assistance. The inability of medical facilities to provide healthcare due to their own lack of water makes these communities
particularly vulnerable.

Safe water reduces infection rates in some of the most vulnerable groups of patients: expectant mothers and their babies. From 2012 to 2017 we were able to strengthen Kawolo Hospital’s services for mothers and babies. In 2017, our goal is to extend the water’s reach to staff housing on the Kawolo site. When the health and wellbeing of hospital staff are ensured, they are better equipped to care for others. It is imperative
that water accessibility be established to ensure that health workers can provide quality care, patients can receive proper care void of water-related infections, and the hospital can run more effectively and efficiently.

Another unfortunate reality that many mothers face is the expectation for them to bring their own water supply to the hospital. In most cases this water is unsafe and puts mother’s health and wellbeing at further risk. This situation is unheard of in Canada, but is a reality in many communities around the world. By providing Kawolo Hospital with a safe water system, complete with a solar powered pump and sanitation system, we were able to relieve mothers of this additional burden.

So far we have had great success with STM in improve Kawolo Hospital’s facilities. We are also looking forward to continuing our work at Kawolo Hospital, as well as starting work in two other public health facilities: Mityana and Nakaseke Hospitals.

When the health of mothers and their babies is ensured, the health of the community is ensured.

About the Author:

Timothy Muttoo PEng, MPH(c)
Timothy Muttoo is a Canadian engineer, entrepreneur and serves as the executive director and co-founder of the not-for profit, innovative Canadian Charity H2O 4 ALL. He is also a partner of the United Nations University for Water, an environment and health think tank. To date H2O 4 ALL has delivered water restoration, hygiene and sanitation projects to 10 developing countries, impacting hundreds of thousands of people and several hundred communities.

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