Photo credit: Allan Gichigi/ Save the Children, March 2016

A Clean Maternity Ward Is Every Woman’s Right

Written by Janti Soeripto
Chief Operating Officer and President, Save the Children 

Two things never fail to strike me when visiting health facilities as part of my work. First, without exception, is the absolute dedication of healthcare professionals to want to help mothers and children survive and thrive.

Secondly, it’s the incredible frustration of seeing basic gaps in delivery that interrupt that service. From access to clean water, the availability of consistent power sources to affordable referral options and a reliable cold chain to keep drugs safe for use, it must seem a constant game of solving one problem even as another arises for those running health clinics to consistently achieve the outcomes we all want.

Getting to one huge outcome – a sustainable, significant global reduction in healthcare-acquired infections that cause tragic deaths of newborns and mothers and needless pain and suffering – is at the heart of the BASICS partnership. Each partner – Save the Children, WaterAid, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Kinnos – brings a proven approach for tackling one of the factors that contribute to millions of newly acquired infections every year.

Integrating them into one strategy is an elegant solution.

And if we know why infections get passed to mothers and newborns in maternity wards (and to anyone in a health facility, for that matter); if we know what to teach health workers and cleaners to change their behavior and which tools they need; and if we know how to work with governments to set and institutionalize cleanliness standards for facilities; then why wouldn’t we make BASICS one of every partners’ highest health priorities?

The short answer is, we have.

BASICS’ objective of improving health outcomes couldn’t be a more natural fit for each partner’s aspirations, especially for Save the Children, which has been at the fore of maternal and child health programming for decades. Our 2030 ambitions for children include the global breakthrough that no child under age 5 anywhere will die from a preventable cause.

The teams of staff who’ve designed BASICS (Bold Action to Stop Infections in Clinical Settings) are deeply committed to transforming health care to make it safer for everyone … starting with women and newborns but then benefiting anyone who seeks care at a facility.

Each year, 17 million women give birth in facilities where cleanliness is questionable. BASICS will catalyze a simple, low-cost change in practices that can save many of them and their infants from death or illness by infection.

Who is to say these women and babies don’t deserve the same right to a clean maternity ward that I had when my own children were born?

As I step into the role of leading Save the Children, I’m putting the weight of the agency behind BASICS. We’re all eager to begin transforming health care as the recipient of this next 100&Change award.


To learn more about BASICS (Bold Action to Stop Infections in Clinical Settings) is a new initiative that will transform healthcare and reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by at least 50%, visit