The Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) commitment to reduce child mortality by two-thirds led to a marked decline of 40% between 1990-2013. However, despite effective strategies to prevent newborn deaths, the Lancet reported in 2013 that out of the 6.3 million children dying before the age of 5 years in the last five years, more than 2.7 million (44%) babies died in their first four weeks of life – in the neonatal period. In India, about 0.76 million neonates die every year, the highest for any country in the world.
State of India’s Newborns 2014 Report: View PDF
Deaths of new born babies are largely due to sepsis, meningitis and tetanus and these infections are strongly linked to exposure of the newborn and the mother to unhygienic conditions. Research has demonstrated time and again that most infections are preventable by ensuring clean and safe water, sanitation and neonatal care practices both at home and in institutions. Initial studies in a few states indicate not only severe lack of basic hygienic conditions in the healthcare institutions but also that most of them are either dysfunctional or inconveniently situated for the expectant and lactating mother to use them.
Therefore, there is a need to increase awareness about the importance of WASH (water, sanitation & hygiene) in healthcare. In this context, WaterAid India has launched Healthy Start, a global campaign to highlight and create awareness and response on the critical issues of WASH in health care and thereby help provide a healthy start to tomorrow’s generation.
Healthy Start is our four-year campaign focused on improving the health and nutrition of newborn babies and children. We will do this by advocating for access to water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion to be integrated into health policy and delivery locally, nationally and internationally.
We are calling for:
- WASH-secured facilities and infection-free environment in all birthing places whether its home, community or institutions;
- New and existing child health policies and programs should include and deliver WASH with a strengthened health system;
- Adequate provisioning and utilisation of budgets by the government for WASH integrated health care at all levels;
- Mobilising communities and people to demand effective implementation of schemes and programs; and
- Public advocacy for greater accountability and better governance to ensure appropriate and adequate WASH in all birthing places.
The campaign will reach out to the government at national, state and district levels; communities with special emphasis on midwives, expectant mothers and families, ASHAs, anganwadi workers, panchayats, health associations & institutions and other bilateral organisations.