Maternal health

Women in developing countries often give birth at home or in unhygienic health facilities without water and sanitation.

This increases the risk of both mother and child dying during child birth. And if they survive, lack of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in the first days, months and years of life can have significant health impacts on the child. 

Children born in unhygienic environments can get often fatal infections including those of the umbilical cord. Early and ongoing exposure to germs in the first years of life can cause repeated diarrhoea and intestinal worm infections which can stunt a child’s physical growth and impair cognitive development.

Without safe water, sanitation and hygiene, expectant mothers can suffer from worms and under nourishment which causes nutrient deficiencies leading to anaemia. If pregnant women are poorly nourished, their baby can be born under developed which can increase the risk of death or illness during early life. And carrying heavy loads such as water can cause prolapsed uteruses and miscarriages.

We are keen to keep mothers and babies healthy so we are undertaking research in our region.

In Timor-Leste, WaterAid and the University of Queensland are researching the link between worm infections and water, sanitation and hygiene. And in Papua New Guinea, WaterAid is working with partner Susu Mamas and the Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority on research into water, sanitation and hygiene at health facilities and during child birth in the Western Highlands.

We are also working closely with the World Health Organization to advocate for the prioritisation of water, sanitation and hygiene in health initiatives, particularly women and children’s health.

A woman and her child watching water fall from a tap

Anna and her daughter enjoy clean, safe water in Timor-Leste.