By Etta Michael Bisong
As part of activities to mark the 2015 World Water Day (WWD), WaterAid has unveiled its new four year global advocacy priority titled – “Healthy Start” to draw universal attention to the sinister impact of not having access to clean water and sanitation on the health of children in developing countries.
The brief, which focuses on ‘the first month of life,’ revealed that nearly half a million babies die in the first month of life because they are born into unhygienic conditions, and one in five of these deaths in the developing world are cause by infectious strongly linked to dirty water or environment.
Although, the findings highlighted that this problem is solvable if mothers and their attendants have access to improved WASH services, yet in Nigeria almost a third (29%) of hospitals and clinics lack access to clean water and safe toilets.
With nearly 52, 000 newborn babies estimated to have died untimely from diseases such as sepsis, tetanus and other infectious in 2013 alone, sadly, the document further asserted that one woman in every 23 in Nigeria will on average lose a baby to infectious during her life time compared to one in 7, 518 in the United Kingdom.
“The fact that we know what the solution is makes this an injustice waiting for action,” said Dr. Michael Ojo, the Country Representative of WaterAid Nigeria.
Dr. Ojo, who made the statement while addressing journalists during this year’s WWD celebration in Abuja, said the ability to keep a hospital or clinic clean is such a fundamental requirement of health care that you have to question whether a facility without clean running water or basic sanitation can adequately serve its patients.
He urged the global community to focus on how to implement the ambitious but achievable target of ensuring that everyone can access safe water and sanitation by 2030, including the prioritisation of facilities as well as ensure that no new hospital or clinic is built without proper consideration of these basic human services.
“There must be individual and collective responsibility for ensuring hygienic conditions in health centres,” the WaterAid Nigeria’s Country Representative said. “We need everyone involved in leading and shaping health services to work together to ensure that most vulnerable members of society do not have their life expectancy reduced to mere weeks because facilities are unable to meet the most basic standards of clean and safe care.”
Dr. Emmnuel Odu, Director of Community Health Services under the National Primary Health Care Development Agency who also commended on the situation at the ceremony, said the ultimate implication of duplicating clean water and sanitation is on health.
“But in terms of mechanisms and stakeholders responsible for making sure that the water is available,” according to him, “Ranges from the responsibility of federal, state and local Ministries of Water Resources.”
He hinted that his Agency as part of efforts to address the issue has integrated and ensure that WASH facilities are captured in new health programmes and policies, and appeal to the media and other relevant stakeholders to intensify more advocacies to curb this menace.