Sierra Leone is a country with some of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. Water and sanitation improvements at health centres, like those funded by our Check Out for Children partnership are preventing infections and saving lives.
At least by West African standards, it’s a chilly morning in the small town of Konta Line, Sierra Leone. But several women and children – and some men – have braved the cold to get to the local health centre to access medical care.
When they arrive, the first thing they do sounds simple and yet it used to be out of the question – they wash their hands at the entrance. Just a year ago, the centre had no water or sanitation facilities.
“We used to struggle a lot to fetch water to wash the equipment and clean the centre, especially the delivery room,” says Fatmata Conteh, a midwife at the Konta Line Community Health Centre. “This was really frustrating especially during the dry season when the water level of the only well we relied on went down. We had to go to the streams outside the facility to find water.”
Sierra Leone has some of the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality in the world. The absence of safe water, functioning toilets and handwashing stations in health centres amplifies the risk of infection among women and children, especially in centres like this one that serve a large population.
The good news is that, as part of UNICEF Sierra Leone’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme, local partners have installed modern toilets, a laundry, an incinerator, a placenta pit, a water well and a water supply system in line with the country’s new standards and guidelines. Funded by supporters such as Marriott, UNICEF and partners have provided similar support to 175 health centres across the country so far.
“Now we can easily clean the health facility and wash all our equipment here. Mothers have access to convenient toilets and water in the bathroom to have a bath after delivery,” says Fatmata. “The soap and bucket of water available at each entrance of the facility instantly reminds patients to wash their hands when they come here.”
Midwife Fatmata is also positive. “The facilities have helped enhance my job. Now, I can concentrate more on caring for patients as I don’t have to waste time trying to fetch water or finding a safe place to dispose of waste.”
Our Check Out for Children partnership is helping to provide clean water and sanitation to children and their families across Africa and the Middle East. With your support, we are helping even more mothers like Isatu to give birth safely and give their children the best start.