Clean Water and Maternal Health

Kenyan students from Kajiado tell us what AMREF has taught them about clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

Mwangatini is a small village at the far end of Magarini sub-county in the Kenyan Coastal region. It borders the Galana River, one of two perennial rivers emptying their waters into the Indian Ocean.  During the rainy season twice every year, the river overflows and bursts its bank, cutting off the entire road network connecting Mwangatini to the outside world. To reach Malindi, the nearest town, villagers have to risk crossing the flooded river by canoe or walk at least 50km to get public transportation.

Mosquitoes flourish in these flooded conditions and drinking water is heavily polluted by latrines. What follows is a rise in malaria and diarrheal cases. The Government has set up a one-room dispensary to cater to the community of about 4,000 people. The dispensary is one of the four health facilities in AMREF’s project area of operation.  It serves 6,698 people from the surrounding villages. The facility has three full-time employees, one security guard, and no connection to electricity supply.

Habel Gona is the Chairman of the Mwangatini Dispensary Management Committee. According to the committee though, few women were using the facility to deliver babies.

“We have one room that serves as the consultation area, drug store, labour ward … basically everything.” says Sara Santa, treasurer of the committee. “Labour and delivery require privacy, which we don’t have. When we have a mother in the room, other patients are sent outside. But they can still hear everything that goes on inside.”

Mwangatini Dispensary Management Committee

With clean water available, women come to the Mwangatini Dispensary for health services

In 2011 AMREF partnered with the community and the Ministry of Health to build the ‘Mother and Child Room’, a separate delivery facility, four toilets and a rain harvesting system with a 16 cubic metre storage tank. A year later, AMREF equipped the dispensary with state-of-the-art equipment. Today, with clean water and women’s privacy assured, Mwangatini records 30 successful deliveries per month.

“We now deliver under hygienic conditions, free from infections and surely we feel honoured and respected,” acknowledges one woman who had her baby there.

“The progress we have made so far inspires and energizes me to work towards making AMREF’s vision of lasting health change in Africa a reality. I’m glad to be part of this change,” said Joseph Mwakombe, AMREF Kenya Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Project, Malindi.

A Mother’s Perspective

Dorcas Mapinga is a 25-year-old mother of three; two of her babies were delivered at Mwangatini Dispensary and the youngest at home.

“I went into labour at night and had to seek help from a traditional birth attendant. There is no electricity at the dispensary so I opted for home delivery. However, I took the infant to the Mother and Child Centre the following day, which is a nice place.

Many women who choose to have their babies at home lose a lot of blood through bleeding.  Some faint while others bleed to death.  Additionally, most traditional birth attendants do not sterilize their tools for cutting the placenta and put both mother and child at risk of getting infections like HIV and tetanus. But at the dispensary, deliveries are safe and done by a trained health care worker. We get prenatal and postnatal care, education on hygiene and family planning services.

A lot of babies used to die from malaria, but now that villagers have been educated on the use of nets and had their babies checked through postnatal services, the situation is much better, thanks to the dispensary. It means a lot to us.

Most mothers now understand the importance of washing hands after using the toilet and before handling food, boiling water for drinking, and how to handle the baby if the mother has HIV. We have learned many things.”

About the Project

Integrated Focused School and Maternal Newborn Child Health in Magarini is part of a larger AMREF Kenya project – the Coastal School Health Project. Funded by AMREF Italy, it is a five year project (2011-2016) on its third phase of implementation.

The purpose of the project is to sustainably increase access to safe water and sanitation and promote appropriate hygiene practices among women, children in schools and surrounding communities in Magarini Sub-County of Kenya. Since inception, it has intervened in more than 139 public schools.


  1. Increase access to safe water by 30% from 67% in five years
  2. Increase access to safe sanitation by 20% from 30.5% in five years
  3. Improve hygiene practices by 50% from 52.6%
  4. Increase access to MNCH services by 20% from 53.2% in the target population within the five years
  5. Promote practices encouraging environmental conservation and food security
  6. Innovative approaches for delivery of reproductive and child health services using schools and local community structures.