One Day Young in Malawi

British photographer Jenny Lewis has teamed up with international development charity WaterAid, to take her Hackney One Day Young photography project to rural Malawi for their new Deliver Life appeal.

Lewis spent seven days photographing mothers and their newborn babies on their first day back home. All the women featured gave birth at Simulemba Health Centre, which serves more than 70,000 people and delivers around 90 babies a month and sadly this centre cannot be kept clean. They have no running water, only four toilets, crumbling bathrooms and no sterilisation equipment. During her week in Malawi, Lewis witnessed both the euphoria of bringing life into the world and the fear of giving birth and living without clean water.

Every minute a newborn baby dies from infection caused by a lack of water and an unclean environment. Without basic water and sanitation, 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. In Simulemba Health Centre alone, around 15 cases of maternal sepsis and up to 20 cases of neonatal sepsis are diagnosed every month. This could be prevented with a safe, adequate water supply and good hygiene.

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Photographer Jenny Lewis said: “Taking ‘One Day Young’ to Malawi was a world away from my original project in Hackney. 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.”

Chris Wainwright, Head of Communications, WaterAid said: “Sadly, for many millions of women around the world, their experience of giving birth can be very different from the UK. WaterAid invited photographer Jenny Lewis to continue her One Day Young project in Malawi, to tell the stories of women who have to give birth without the basic services we take for granted: clean running water, decent toilets and good hygiene. Despite the adversity these new mothers face, their hope still beams out of Jenny’s photos. This winter WaterAid want to Deliver Life and bring safe water to mothers and their families around the world.”

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This winter WaterAid’s Deliver Life appeal aims to reach 130,000 mothers and their families around the world with safe water. 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. 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.

  • Images © WaterAid/ Jenny Lewis