After giving birth to twins in a dingy clinic in Tanzania, Doris Alikado wasn’t able to clean herself for 24 hours. But the exhausted mother was at least relieved that she had had enough water to wash her newborns.
Every year, nearly half a million babies in the developing world die before they turn 1 month old because they’re born into unhygienic conditions, a new study released by nonprofit WaterAid found. And though half of hospitals in Africa don’t have access to clean water, the staff are well aware that expecting mothers need it, so many require the patients to cart it themselves to the clinic.
“It was mandatory to take water from home and take it with us for the delivery of the babies,” Alikado, who walked to the clinic while she was in labor, said in an interview with WaterAid.
While Alikado noted that she only had to trek a short distance to the clinic, most other women living in remote areas aren’t quite as fortunate.
Pregnant mothers travel up to two hours, most by foot or by motorcycle, to the Mlali Health Centre in rural Mvomero district in Tanzania, for example, Carolynne Wheeler MacKinnon, WaterAid media officer, and Neil Wissink, WaterAid senior photography officer, wrote in a blog post for Medium.
An already difficult journey, which involves ambling through dark fields and rocky terrain, is made even more difficult for these women who have to carry about 40 to 60 liters of water to the facility with them.
Yet, these women are willing to shoulder the added burden in order to at least try and improve the fraught conditions.
“I felt bad giving birth at the health center without enough safe water because the environment was dirty,” Alikado said.
To help grant women access to sanitation and clean water at clinics worldwide, WaterAid is petitioning the U.N. to include the issue in its new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs, which will be decided on in September, will work to reduce poverty, advance education and foster gender equality, among advancing other human rights issues.
WaterAid is pushing the U.N. to include making clean water and sanitation available to everyone, including healthcare clinics, by 2030.
"Pregnant mothers rely on a birthing environment that, at a minimum, does not place them or their baby at risk, saying nothing of the need for drinking-water or having to leave the facility to search for a toilet," Maria Neira, a WHO expert on public, social and environmental health, said in a statement.
Find out more about the Sustainable Development Goals and how you can push for clean water and sanitation to be included here.