Shining a light on the global maternal health crisis - our light installation at historic Lambeth hospital
Every two seconds, a woman gives birth in a health centre without clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. That's why we created an evocative light installation in Lambeth, South London, outside one of Britain’s first maternity hospitals, raising awareness of this global crisis.
The installation projection of water droplets featured on the front of Lambeth’s former General Lying-In Hospital on York Road, near Waterloo station.
Three silhouetted expectant mothers stood in front of the building, highlighting a shocking reality – every year 16.6 million women give birth in hospitals and clinics without adequate water, toilets and soap  putting them and their unborn babies at risk of deadly infection.
Our installation was part of our Water Means Life appeal which aims to bring clean water to health centres in Mozambique and around the world. As the January evening closed in, the mothers stood in darkness as an act of solidarity with the millions of pregnant women worldwide who face the injustice of giving birth in unhygienic conditions. More than one million deaths each year are associated with unclean births, while infections account for 26% of neonatal deaths and 11% of maternal mortality.
A quarter of health centres around the world do not have clean water on site, almost half are without adequate handwashing facilities, and four out of five in the poorest countries lack decent toilets. As a result many expectant mothers have no choice but to collect their own water, carrying dangerously heavy buckets that put them and their babies at risk of falls and other injuries.
In Zomba, Malawi, expectant mother Mary Makowa, 31, is painfully aware of the dangers of lack of access to clean water.
“My third born died when he was one year and three months old due to diarrhoea. That time, we did not have a borehole in this village. The water source we were depending on… [was] contaminated.”
Thanks to WaterAid, Mary’s village now has access to a borehole. Mary added, “I believe if we had this borehole back then, I would not have lost my son.”
Despite their best efforts, it is near impossible for healthcare workers to protect their own health and provide safe maternity care without the basics of clean water and soap. But with clean water, sanitation and good hygiene in every health centre, patients and healthcare workers can be protected and stay healthy.
Players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting WaterAid’s work to provide clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene in health centres around the world.
Laura Chow, Head of Charities, People’s Postcode Lottery, said:
"Clean water in health centres shouldn't be a luxury. It is fundamental to ensuring babies and mothers are safe during and after birth, and doctors can provide the highest level of care.
“We are proud that players of People's Postcode Lottery are supporting WaterAid to raise awareness of this and to bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to healthcare centres across the world."
Thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we're transforming the lives of mothers like Valéria.
Talking about her experience of giving birth to baby Pierpina at Mecanhelas Health Centre, Niassa Province in Mozambique, Valéria said:
"My baby was born here at the hospital. It was wonderful. Before delivery I used hot water, and after delivery I used it to wash myself. Many things need water such as bathing, cooking, drinking, and washing clothes.
"Water saves lives. There is no life without water. I feel good that the doctor can wash his hands with soap and water, because by washing his hands, the doctor is preventing diseases.”
It's staggering that every two seconds a woman gives birth in a health centre without clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene – that’s a massive 16.6 million each year who are facing this needless threat to their lives.
Our light installation is a stark reminder of the importance of clean water and toilets for good maternal and newborn health. Pregnancy and childbirth is already dangerous for many women and babies. Without clean water and the associated health risks they can be deadly.
Despite their best efforts, it is near impossible for healthcare workers to protect their own health and provide safe maternity care without the basics of clean water and soap.
Our Water Means Life Appeal is raising funds to help turn the tide on this injustice. By championing clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene in all health centres around the world we can help save lives and give women and babies a better chance of a healthy future.