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World Water Week (27th August to 1st September 2017) is the annual focal point for the planet’s water issues and serves as a reminder to all that more than 600 million people around the world do not have a safe water source nearby. Access to water impacts on an individual’s health at both a community and health systems level and in 2015, WHO and UNICEF proposed an action plan to achieve universal water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) coverage in healthcare facilities (HCFs) by 2030.

99% of life threatening infections acquired during childbirth are preventable and yet these infections are a leading cause of maternal death in LMICs. Essential components of safe delivery that require access to clean water supplies include handwashing by the birth attendant and a clean birth surface. In 2015 a WHO/UNICEF report concluded that 38% of health facilities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) lacked access to an improved water source, 19% lacked improved sanitation facilities and 35% lacked water and soap for handwashing.

University of Aberdeen medical student, Iyabo Adekunle-Olarinde, recently completed her intercalated BSc project with Soapbox where she explored the requirements of water for hand hygiene during labour and delivery in low-income countries. Iyabo’s Water@Birth study was conducted in Aberdeen Maternity Hospital and at Felege Hiwot Referral Hospital in Ethiopia and generated some fascinating results around water use for hand hygiene in resource poor settings where efficient use is absolutely key – a message that will be heard repeatedly throughout World Water Week.

Read more about Iyabo’s time in Ethiopia here and more about World Water Week here.