More than 3,500 newborn babies died in Zambia in 2013 from either sepsis, tetanus or other infections linked to dirty water and lack of hygiene, the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health has revealed.
Community Development Minister Emmerin Kabanshi said this on Thursday during the launch of the Healthstart advocacy by WaterAid-Zambia at the New Government Complex in Lusaka.
She said Government was concerned about the rate at which infants were dying soon after birth.
“This is hearbreaking because these deaths could have been avoided if those caring for the babies were able to provide hygienic environment through provision of clean water and basic sanitation.
“In fact, statistics indicate that more than 3,500 newborn babies died from sepsis, tetanus and other infections linked to dirty water and lack of hygiene in Zambia in 2013 alone.
This is heartbreaking because these deaths could have been avoided if those caring for the babies were able to provide hygienic environment through provision of clean water and basic sanitation,” Mrs Kabanshi said.
She observed that the number of babies who die at birth could drastically reduce if health practitioners took hygiene as number one priority as they attended to mothers and their newly-born babies.
“It has been shown that if both the mother and her birth attendant wash their hands before handling the baby, the baby’s chances of dying in the first month of life can be reduced by 50 percent, yet the World Health Organisation’s report released this year shows that 38 percent of health care facilities in the developing world including Zambia, lack acces to safe water,” she said.
She reiterated her ministry’s commitment to partnering with other players in health-related fields in improving the lives of the people.
“We support the new initiative through provision of policy direction and even active participation in hygiene and public health promotion activities such as promotion of nutritional and dietary advice to expectant mothers,” she said
And WaterAid country representative Fatoumata Haidara said it was shocking that some health institutions in the country still operated without running water and that there was still doubt as to whether the toilets in these institutions were safe for both medical staff and patients.
Mrs Haidara called on Government to ensure that water sanitation and hygiene sources were embedded in plans for reducing all forms of malnutrition and that finances should be made available and used accordingly.
“What is shocking though is that some hospitals and clinics are defined as having access to clean water, the reality is the water supply may be up to half a kilometre away from the facility rather than piped into the facility.
“Additionally, there is a great doubt as to whether toilets in health facilities are working and can be used by both staff and patients. Government must ensure that water sanitation and hygienic sources are embedded in all plans for reducing undernutrition, acute malnutrition, preventable childhood disease and new-born deaths. Every health care facility must have clean running water, safe toilets for patients, functional sinks and soap for health workers and patients in all treatment areas and bathrooms,” she said.