Midwives need clean water to protect new lives

3 min read
Matron Oumou Traore during an antenatal consultation with Fatoumata Sogoba at the Diaramana Health Centre, Mali. Oumou Traore helped deliver Fatoumata as well as all her children.
Image: WaterAid/ Guilhem Alandry

With UK government support, midwives in some of the world’s most marginalised countries can ensure that babies are born with a fighting chance at life. 

Delivering babies takes patience, skill and, yes, clean water. It’s a given for most of us. But in the world’s most marginalised countries, half of all health centres don’t have clean water on site. If you’re pregnant and in labour, chances are you’ll have to carry water to the clinic or hospital so you can give birth safely. 

Midwife Oumou Traoré (pictured above) knows this story well. She’s been matron of the health centre in Diaramana village, south-central Mali, since 1980. When it comes to healthcare, she’s seen first-hand how clean water can transform everything. 

Watch Oumou’s story and see how clean water is crucial to protecting babies’ health.

“It's simply not easy to not have water in the delivery room,” explains midwife Samuel Nshimyumukiza of the Nzangwa Health Centre in Bugesera, eastern Rwanda. “It starts from the midwife washing his hands before and after procedure and between helping two mothers.”

The burden a lack of clean water has on pregnant women is unacceptable, he says. “I heard mothers were obliged to carry their own water. It's not acceptable to ask people to bring water to a health centre.”

Watch Samuel's story and see the impact clean water has on health care.

Now we have clean water ... It makes our practice not only easier, but also safer for us and for the mothers we help.

- Samuel Nshimyumukiza, midwife, Rwanda

Cleaner, safer births

Oumou has spent more than half her life delivering a generation of the village’s mothers and now their children, too. Local people call her "ma maman" – "my mum". 

Over the years, she’s experienced everything from birthing babies in family homes because there was no clinic, to delivering babies under harsh clinical conditions because there was no running water. In 2016, WaterAid installed a solar pump and pipe system, giving the Diaramana health centre access to clean water. 

“Before the intervention of WaterAid we used to have about five, six, seven deaths per month,” recalls Oumou. “But with intervention and… the awareness activities that we benefited [from] we also educate the mothers about hygiene factors and water-related diseases, and now we have between one and two deaths a month.”

Samuel Nshimyumukita, 30, nurse, holding baby Umukundwa, with Clarisse Nyiransabimana, 32, at Nzangwa Health Centre, Kintambwe, Rweru, Bugesera, Rwanda, May 2017
Samuel Nshimyumukita holding baby Umukundwa with mum Clarisse at the Nzangwa Health Centre. “I just love my job,” says Samuel. “I am doing what I have always wanted to do.”
Image: WaterAid/ Behailu Shiferaw

For Samuel in Rwanda, the impact of clean water on the women and babies he cares for has been equally powerful. “Now we have clean water that we can wash with, but also the mothers can wash before they go home. It makes our practice not only easier, but also safer for us and for the mothers we help.”

As Oumou and Samuel’s experience tells us, clean running water is vital to bringing new lives into the world. 

Show your support for midwives and all health workers everywhere. Email Liz Truss, urging her to lead the way by prioritising clean water and good hygiene in health centres. Together, we can help protect midwives, mothers and babies in the world’s most marginalised countries.