One Day Young in Malawi – helping mothers and babies around the globe

Did you know that a newborn baby dies from infection caused by a lack of water and an unclean environment every minute?

It’s a shocking fact, isn’t it? But without basic water and sanitation - something we take for granted here - it is impossible for hospitals to provide a hygienic place to give birth, leaving mothers and newborn babies highly vulnerable to infections like sepsis. This can be fatal: sepsis accounts for 11% of maternal deaths around the world, deaths that could be prevented with a safe, adequate water supply and good hygiene.

British photographer Jenny Lewis, creator of the brilliant One Day Young photography project has teamed up with international development charity WaterAid for their new Deliver Life appeal, in a bid to help reach 130,000 mothers and their families around the world who need access to safe water.

The One Day Young project involves Jenny Lewis photographing mothers in London a day after giving birth, and captures all the elation, joy and intense emotions of having a new baby. For the WaterAid project Jenny spent seven days in Malalwi photographing mothers and their newborn babies on their first day back home.

All the women featured gave birth at Malawi’s Simulemba Health Centre, a place that serves over 70,000 people and delivering around 90 babies a month. However, the centre has no running water, only four toilets, crumbling bathrooms and no sterilisation equipment. During her week in Malawi, she witnessed both the euphoria of bringing life into the world and the fear of giving birth and living without clean water.

'Taking ‘One Day Young’ to Malawi was a world away from my original project in Hackney.' says Jenny. 'Without clean running water, the women I met were giving birth in the toughest conditions I’ve ever seen. Yet what struck me the most was seeing the triumphant victory that every new mother feels, even in this dangerous environment. Strength and joy were as ever present in my photographs here as they had been at home in London. While this series celebrates life, it also highlights the enormous challenges many women face to do the most natural thing in the world - give birth.'

How can you help?

  • WaterAid wants to make sure a baby has the best possible start in life. Midwives and hospital staff simply want to be able to do the job that they trained for – to deliver life in a safe environment. But this isn’t possible without safe water, toilets and good hygiene
  • Donate here to give to the Water Aid and the Deliver Life appeal
  • Every £1 donated to the appeal until 10 February will be doubled by the UK Government – meaning it can help twice as many mothers and babies stay safe and well.

Photo 1 - Rita Shaba, 24 and baby Ruth, one-day-old, in Mbale Village, Malawi / Photo 2 - Liviness Banda, 19 and her baby boy, two-days-old in Chileta village, Malawi / Photo 3 - Madalitso Chirwa, 20 and her baby, Linda, one-day-old in Simon Village, Malawi

All images © WaterAid/ Jenny Lewis

More posts...why it's important to discuss maternal mental health, things that surprised me about pregnancy and the very early signs of pregnancy.

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