Imagine the stress of giving birth without access to water. This was the reality for women at Chikwewo Health centre in southern Malawi.
The health centre serves over 100,000 people and has an active maternity ward. But didn’t have running water on the premises. Patients and health workers had to fetch water from outside the compound.
The situation was especially dire at the maternity ward. Many women who gave birth at the centre would go for hours or even days without being able to take bath or clean their clothes after delivering their child.
“We need running water for infection prevention”
Noel Siyaya, the health worker in charge of the maternity unit explains: “Lack of water affects everyone seeking healthcare service here. But women and girls are much more affected. Especially when they are at the maternity ward. We need running water for infection prevention.”
"I felt ashamed."
When Ethel (pictured) gave birth to her son at 8am on the ward, she had no access to water. "The available water source was so crowded because it was shared by the community, people in the market, the school and the health centre. I could not use anything I had, including my clothes, linen, because they were dirty and soiled. I had to carry the smell back home. My home is far, so imagine going back home like that, with the foul smell. I felt ashamed."
With the help of Amref supporters and partnership with the health centre and local authorities, the health centre now has sustainable access to clean water, sanitation and waste management systems.
We’ve installed a safe new system including the construction of boreholes, installation of a solar-powered water systems, water storage tanks and an incinerator for the disposal of biodegradable waste. We’ve constructed pit latrines and bathrooms for the maternity ward and for general access and tap water in the maternity unit.
Now there is safe clean water to sterilise equipment, wash bedding and keep people clean.
Health workers, mums-to-be and babies are safer.
"I was happy"
Thrilled Fynesa Inock has just safely delivered twins at the health centre: a boy and girl. She is pictured here with her newborn twins and Noel the health worker in charge of the maternity unit.
Her experience at the maternity ward has been very different to Ethel's. “I was happy that I could take a bath, be clean, breastfeed my babies, and my relative could have water to wash my clothes.”
Banner image: Fynesa Inock uses the water tap at the Chikwewo Health Centre, southern Malawi (c) Amref Health Africa/David Brazier.
Images all (c) Amref Health Africa/David Brazier: Fynesa Inock and one of her newborn twins; Noel Siyaya, health worker in charge of the Chikwewo Health Centre maternity unit; Ethel Chiisale at the Chikwewo Health Centre; Noel Siyaya tends to Fynesa Inock and her newborn twins in the maternity ward; Fynesa Inock accesses water at the tap at Chikwewo Health Centre.