My Midwife: New photo series shows mothers and midwives around the world in the hours after birth


26 May 2017

From providing emotional and medical support during labour, to teaching new parents how to care for their newborns, a touching new photo series from international development organisation WaterAid reveals how much midwives around the world have in common, no matter where they work.

To view and download photos please click here.

The charity photographed and interviewed new mothers and their midwives in the hours and days immediately after birth about their experiences – from the UK and Canada, to Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Bangladesh.

While midwives in modern hospitals fill birthing pools without a thought and benefit from stringent hygiene protocols, those in many areas of the developing world may start their day with a struggle to find enough water to clean floors and bedlinens, wash their hands and offer labouring women a drink.

Yet, whether new mothers delivered in state-of-the-art hospitals or in healthcare centres without clean water, decent toilets and functioning hand basins, all shared the same joy in their new babies, and great appreciation for the midwives who helped bring those babies into the world.

In the UK, first-time mum Rebekah, who gave birth to baby James in an emergency C-section at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital said:

“The midwives have all been brilliant, they’ve been really supportive, they gave me the best advice of what’s going to be best for the baby. If I didn’t have the midwives supporting me, I would probably have been an emotional wreck.

“Everyone should have the right to basic things. Without that, you take away your dignity.”

In Malawi, first-time mother Ruth, 19, who gave birth to her baby son in the Ngokwe Health Centre in Machinga, said:

“When I was coming here, I brought with me three ‘Chitenje’ fabrics of which one is to used to cover the baby, and the other two used during and after giving birth, for cleaning myself. I also brought with me a plastic wrapper used during birth to hold the water and blood… This helps to keep the bed clean, as the ward has only two beds.

“Despite facing these challenges, I was happy to have received the best care from our nurse-midwife. She was very helpful all the time. She would come even to check my and my baby’s pulse and temperature.”

In 2015, 2,100 newborns died each day from sepsis, tetanus, pneumonia or diarrhoea – all infections strongly linked to unhygienic conditions. WaterAid wants to ensure healthcare facilities everywhere have access to clean water and have adequate toilets and are committed to good hygiene practice and promotion. Yet 38% of healthcare facilities in developing nations do not have a water supply, 19% do not provide adequate sanitation and 35% do not have soap and water to sustain good hygiene practices.

WaterAid Global Head of Campaigns Savio Carvalho said:

“Wherever you are in the world, clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene practice are essential for a healthy birth. The deaths of 767,000 newborns each year from infections is unacceptable, and it should make us angry, because the link between dirty conditions and neonatal deaths is something we have known how to address for more than 150 years.

“As midwives gather in Toronto this month, we ask them to join our fight to make sure no woman anywhere has to give birth without access to these essentials. They understand better than anyone how important water, good sanitation and good hygiene are for healthy mothers and healthy babies. Governments and policymakers must make these a priority in delivering healthcare, and in efforts to improve the health of their people.”

The photo series coincides with the International Confederation of Midwives’ Congress in Toronto, Canada, where 4,000 midwives from around the world will gather from 18 June.

WaterAid is proud to be participating in the Midwives’ Congress, and is calling on midwives everywhere to join our Healthy Start campaign advocating for quality healthcare for all by 2030 by ensuring every healthcare facility in the world has clean water, good sanitation and good hygiene. For more information about our participation at the Congress, please see

For more information, please contact:

In London, and for US queries: Carolynne Wheeler, News Manager, [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 4485, or Fiona Callister, Global Head of Media, [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 5022

In the US: Brittany Galvan, [email protected], +1 (310) 994 7380

In Delhi: Pragya Gupta, Media Officer, [email protected]

In Melbourne: Kirrily Johns, Communications Manager, [email protected] or +61 3 9001 8248

In Ottawa: Christine LaRocque, Director of Communications, [email protected] or +1 (613) 230-5182 ext. 243

In Stockholm: Magdalena Olsson, Communications Manager, [email protected] or +46 (0)8 677 30 33 or +46 (0)73 661 93 31, or Petter Gustafsson, Communications Officer, on [email protected] or +46 (0)8 677 30 21 or +46 (0)72 858 58 51

Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected].

Notes to Editors:


WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation.  The international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities.  Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25 million people with clean water and, since 2004, 24 million people with sanitation.  For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

Around 289,000 children die each year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That’s almost 800 children each day, or one child every two minutes.

An estimated 663 million people (around one in ten) are without clean water

Nearly 2.4 billion people (around one in three) live without improved sanitation

For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity.

Just £15 can help provide one person with access to clean water.

For details on how individual countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, please see our online database,