Access to clean water is a powerful tool in improving maternal and children health

Today is World Water Day. As a maternal and children health advocate, I relate everything to maternal health by default. Pregnancy aside, water plays an important role in a variety of body functions. It helps nutrients reach your cells, aids in digestion, removes toxins from your body, even regulates your body temperature—water is not only necessary but very vital.

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World Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development where an international observance for water was recommended. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. It has been held annually since then.

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The famous statement that ‘water is life’ is not by accident because yes, water is life and life starts at conception. Typically, our bodies are composed of water. This composition goes up during pregnancy because of blood volume- blood is composed mostly of water. Increased blood volume carries nutrients to developing baby and then whisks waste out. Your body will naturally retain more fluid to adequately supply your blood—and as your baby grows, to replenish the amniotic fluid.

As a maternal and children health advocate, I often go to the field to experience firsthand the state of maternal health in the country. I remember vividly my visit to Mwingi , a town approximately 200km east of Nairobi. In remote villages in Mwingi, water is a very rare commodity which is searched by the old, the young, the very pregnant and the not very pregnant alike. The lucky ones have donkeys to do the carrying but the not so lucky ones carry the jerricans of water on their backs.

A village in Mwingi- Photo courtesy of Brian Inganga

The search for clean water in most parts of the country often exacts a heavy toll on the lives of women and girls who are responsible for gathering it on a daily basis. It takes up to six hours per day to collect sufficient quantities of water to serve a single family, and much of that time is spent walking- don’t even talk about the scorching sun!

Carrying heavy jerricans every day can lead to chronic, significant pain and physical deformities in women’s backs, hips, and necks. Pregnant women are not excused from water collection duties, and the effects of carrying the heavy water often interfere with and complicate childbirth.

Apart from the long distance and heavy jerricans, there is also the problem of dirty water. Cooking with and drinking dirty water expose many families to chronic diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, worms, parasites, dysentery and hepatitis. The leading cause of death in infants is exposure to contaminated water and water-borne diseases.

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Dear Mr. President, Governor, Senator, Member of Parliament, Women Rep, Member of the County Assembly, NGOs, and International Organizations as we mark World Water Day this 2016 , please purpose to provide clean, potable water for our women and children in Kenya for access to clean water is in itself a powerful intervention in improving maternal and children health.



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