The British Charity, WaterAid Liberia and Sierra Leone in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has launched its new “Healthy Start” campaign showing the devastating impact that a lack of safe water and sanitation has on children in developing countries.
The Campaign was officially launched Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at the Careysburg Health Center in Montserrado County.
Healthy Start is WaterAid's 4-year Advocacy Priority (2015-2019) on improving the health and nutrition of newborn babies and children.
WaterAid says one in four newborn deaths in Liberia could be prevented with safe water, sanitation and clean hands.
Released Tuesday by WaterAid 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.
According to the 2013 Liberia Demography and Health Survey the infant mortality rate in Liberia is 54 deaths per 1,000 live births and the under-five mortality is 94 deaths per 1,000 live births. Thus, one in every 10 Liberian children dies before reaching age five.
"This number could even be reduced further with the proper WASH facilities in place at health care centers," says WaterAid.
The campaign launched as a 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% – as is the case in Mali.
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.
Statistics on percentage of health facilities with clean water supply and improved sanitation are hard to come by. However, a good number of the health care facilities lack clean water supply and improved sanitation something that is a contributing factor to nosocomial infections in the country.
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.
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.
Giving an overview at the launch of the Campaign Tuesday in Careysburg, WaterAid’s Team Leader for Liberia and Sierra Leone, Chuchu K. Selma said the links between dirty hands, dirty water, poor sanitation and infant mortality is nothing new to especially Liberia as a nation had done very little about it.
So according o him, this is not a newly found solution but rather call for coordinated action to end injustice against babies.
Mr. Selma pointed out that being born into unhygienic conditions condemns too many babies in the developing world and particularly in Liberia, to a tragically early and avoidable death and their parents to needless heartbreak.
He further stressed that the ability to keep a hospital or clinic clean is such a fundamental basic requirement of health care that one has to question whether a facility without clean running water or basic sanitation can adequately serve its patients.
“We need everyone involved in leading and shaping health services to work together to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society do not have their life expectancy reduced to mere weeks because facilities are unable to meet the most basic standards of clean and safe care,” Mr. Selma emphasized.
He noted that the United Nations is currently deciding on the Sustainable Development Goals, which will be successors to the Millennium Development Goals.
Mr. Selma added that WaterAid is calling for a dedicated goal to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030, including in all healthcare facilities.
He reiterated that WaterAid remains committed to a world where everyone, including Liberians can have access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene services.
The "Healthy Start" Campaign was officially launched by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, represented by the Director of Environmental and Occupational Health, Dehweh Omarley Yeabah.
Director Health commanded WaterAid for the Campaign which he described as in the interest of the Health Sector of Liberia.
He pledged the commitment of the Health Ministry, to ensure the smooth implementation of the "Healthy Start" Campaign, stressing that it is indeed timely for a fresh start and a healthy environment following the devastating Ebola outbreak.
Mr. Yeabah stressed the importance of the Campaign which he believes will play a significant role in the Health Sector of Liberia in the prevention of future Ebola outbreak, including other diseases.
The official launching Program of "Healthy Start" brought together dignitaries from both the public and private sectors of the Liberian society, including Partners of WaterAid.
Special remarks were made by the City Mayor of Careysburg City–Anna Urey Philips, Liberia CSOs WASH Chairman–Prince Krepleh, SHALOM Head–Pate Chon, Liberia WASH Consortium Advocacy & Communications Coordinator–Robertetta Rose, and Montserrado County Health Officer–Dr. Fred Amegashie, among others.
They welcomed the Initiative by WaterAid and pledged their commitments to ensure the success of the "Healthy Start" Campaign.