A non-governmental organization, SHALOM, with funding from the British Charity WaterAid Liberia/Sierra Leone, recently embarked on a campaign to ensure that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), is prioritized at various health centers in the country.
A statement quoting Ms. Lusu Gibson, WASH Officer and Head of the Healthy Start Approach program, said every child should have access to a well equipped toilet regardless of where the child is born.
“WASH has been overlooked as a pillar of public health, particularly in relation to child health, where its potential contribution is great to transform the sector.
“We must reverse the chronic under-investment and political neglect that have held back our country’s efforts to improve Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene so far,” Ms Gibson said.
She recalled that in 2013, over 2.7 million babies died in their first four weeks of life. “This is overwhelmingly a problem of the developing world – with over 99 percent of neonatal deaths occurring in low and middle income countries, of which our country is a part.”
According Ms Gibson, 12 percent of the population in Liberia uses unimproved (often traditional) latrines and 26 percent of the population share toilets with their community members.
“Just imagine how life is like for most children in our country without improved water sanitation and hygiene in our community and health facilities.
“Children are being delivered in health facilities that do not have safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene, Ms. Gibson observed.
She observed that there is no need visiting rural clinics to gather evidence on the issue of lack of WASH in health facilities, adding that “right within our capital city there are lots of health facilities that lack WASH standards.”
“Government facilities are even the ones facing greater challenges when it comes to WASH.
“Imagine health workers collecting rain water at a health facility for delivery? What about a government facility having water constraints because of water bills? Sub-standard delivery beds are still being used in delivery rooms at our birthing centers,” Ms Gibson noted.
She called on the government and WASH stakeholders to make water, sanitation and hygiene services for pregnant women and newborn part of all plans to reduce infant mortality, including improved nutrition.