Zero home deliveries in Elnur thanks to WASH initiatives

Tuesday 16 August 2016

By Hellen Ekisa

Mother with her new born baby

Imagine a mother in labor carrying water to hospital so that it can be used when she delivers her baby. Now picture this mother delivering her baby in a facility that has no running water and the condition is simply unhygienic…This is difficult to imagine, but for 32 year old Kulei and many mothers in Wajir county, this was a harsh reality until April 2015 when Save the Children began implementing WASH interventions  through a UKAID funded project.

Kulei says: “I have 10 children. I gave birth to seven children at home and three in the hospital. I gave birth to my youngest child three years ago in Wajir Referral Hospital because there was no water here at Elnur. I had to carry water when I came here to deliver twice and I was tired, I could not carry water to hospital again.”

“Not many women came to Elnur because there was no water in the maternity ward, and the hospital smelled bad,” she adds.

Kulei who is expecting her 11th baby, is only two months into her pregnancy but is already attending antenatal clinic at Elnur dispensary. She says: “I have seen big changes since Save the Children started supporting this hospital especially regarding water. Now the maternity is clean, no bad smell and we even have a hot shower after giving birth! Although I have never used the maternity services since the water was connected, I see the happiness in other women and I look forward to delivering my baby at Elnur dispensary.”

18 year old Robai Kulei delivered her first baby three months ago at Elnur dispensary. She says: “That was my first pregnancy and I never experienced any difficulty because of the good services I received at Elnur. The doctor is so good and the services are also good. Since I gave birth, I have never had any complications like other women who gave birth at home. I have no infection, I never felt anything abnormal and I am happy.  When I gave birth, I was given sanitary pads and clothes for my baby.”

Both Kulei and Robai say that mothers in Elnur location prefer giving birth in hospital because of the improved hygiene conditions and the service delivery. “In the past, nobody told mothers that their blood level was low, nobody told them when they should expect to give birth. People used to give birth like camels in the bush,” says Kulei. “Mothers used to breastfeed their babies three days after delivering but it is different now as the nurse helps the mother to start breastfeeding immediately, and we are taught to breastfeed for six months without giving any other food,” she adds.

Elnur … the preferred choice for expectant mothers

Lincoln Munish a nurse at Elnur dispensary says: “Before Save the Children, we had other organisations supporting health services. However, there was very little focus on maternal and neonatal health. The story is different now. I have seen a lot of changes in maternal and newborn health awareness in the community. This health facility offers all preventive and curative services. As you see, we have two nurses, one nutritionist, one Public Health Officer (PHO) and one clinical officer,” Says Lincoln.

According to Lincoln, water installation at Elnur dispensary has led to improved service delivery, an increase in maternal deliveries and reduction in babies’ umbilical cord infections which were caused by home deliveries.

“Can you imagine conducting a delivery with the hustle of looking for water to clean surfaces and the maternity ward? That was so tedious to us. I feel so happy because service delivery is easier and I am motivated to stay here and serve this community more. Without this project, the environment here would not be healthy for both personnel and clients. Infections, both neonatal and postnatal sepsis would be very common,” says Lincoln.

Healthy mothers, healthy babies and motivated staff

“We really appreciate Save the Children support.  I am new in this location but because of good sanitation in the maternity, we have zero home deliveries. All mothers in Elnur come to the hospital. The daily number here is approximately 50 adults and children. Service utilization is good because we have a very active community unit. I am happy working here. I have not experienced the water hustle but I enjoy working simply because the environment is conducive,” Says Sylvia Moraa a Public Health Officer at Elnur dispensary

Challenges remain

Kulei who is also a member of the Mother to Mother Support Group (MTMSG) says: “There has been no lighting at night since the solar panel goes off at night. We would like a permanent solution. We also have many mothers coming to Elnur dispensary and soon the space will not be enough. If the government could expand or build two more rooms that would cater for more people, we would be happier.”

 “Our staff quarters do not have a latrine. We have toilets in the house but there is no water connection meaning we cannot use it effectively,” says Sylvia, the public health officer at Elnur Dispensary.

Project information:

The UKAID project aims to accelerate reduction in maternal and new-born mortality in vulnerable and marginalised counties in Kenya including Wajir County. The project is employing various strategies to increase demand for and utilisation of quality Maternal and Newborn Health (MNH) services. These strategies include community dialogue, Mother to Mother Support Groups (MTMSGs) and Water and Sanitation (WASH) interventions. 

A maternal and newborn health baseline survey conducted by population health in April 2015 indicated poor maternal and neonatal indicators in the Wajir targeted population. The survey identified the key factors affecting uptake of Maternal and Newborn Health (MNH) services as being largely influenced by religion, culture and geographical disparities. Cleanliness, service provider attitude, preference for female service providers and inadequate infrastructure were identified as factor influencing delivery choices in health facilities.