From here to maternity

3 min read
WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala

London Midwife, mum of four and Instagram star Clemmie Hooper meets her counterparts in Madagascar to find out the challenges and triumphs they face every day...

As a midwife and mother I wash my hands so many times a day that I lose count. But millions of people get sick every year simply because they don’t have soap and clean water. 

Amazingly, handwashing with soap can cut diarrhoeal diseases by 40%, saving hundreds of lives every day. So when Soaper Duper and WaterAid invited my husband Simon and I on a Global Handwashing mission to Madagascar, we were keen to help raise awareness, and show how we can stop these largely preventable illnesses.

Like many women of my age and background I hadn’t seen real poverty before and I was unsure of how I would react. However, I approached the trip the same way I approach a 12 hour shift on a labour ward; hopeful of good outcomes but mindful of the potential for bumps along the way.

We first visited the village of Ambohidronono, where we met midwives Dorina and Tolotra. They provide care to women throughout pregnancy, during labour and in the postnatal period, and see roughly 60 babies per week at their vaccination clinic.

Tolotra left the relative comfort of her hometown to come and help run the village clinic. As we compared stories, and she told me how they managed without clean water, soap and toilets, it dawned on me just how unbelievably fortunate we are in the UK to be able to safely deliver babies.

It must be terrifying as a pregnant woman to know the water being used to clean the birthing equipment and floors could be spreading lethal infections, and to have to rely on the same water to wash yourself and your new-born baby.

I asked Tolotra how it made her feel, not being able to wash her hands properly in between examining or delivering babies:

I have no choice; I'm doing the best I can for these women. You would do the same.

It's a a different story for Narinda, a midwife from Ampasika, where WaterAid has worked closely with the local community to install water points and toilet facilities, and promote good hygiene education.

Midwives Clemmie Hooper and Narinda at a health centre in Moramanga, Madagascar.
Midwives Clemmie Hooper and Narinda at the health centre Narinda works at in Ampasika, Madagascar.
WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala

Before clean water came, women had to bring their own water in, and it was difficult for them to keep clean during and after delivery. I couldn’t wash my hands and be hygienic when delivering babies. Diarrhoea rates were very high.  Now we have a shower, facilities to wash clothes, toilets and clean water, more women are coming here to have their babies.

The difference between the two health centres was vast, but the dedication of the midwives to do their best for the new mothers was the same. It made me connect with them, and want to help as much as possible to change the situation.