(Picture: WaterAid/Kodai)Giving birth is a beautiful and natural process.
But for women around the world, the traditions surrounding having a baby are different.
These striking images show how how eleven countries from the UK to India and Uganda to Sweden celebrate new life.
From porridge-making and paint masks to baptisms and beer-brewing, the touching series is being released by WaterAid as part of its Water Effect campaign, which aims to help protect mothers and ensure all babies have the best possible start in life by getting clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene in health centres access the world.
It features traditions such as Nana Fatsuma in Nigeria, where a stick with twig-like fingers is placed in a bowl of water and given to the labouring mother to hasten delivery, the Okuizome first food ceremony for babies in Japan, and the Ghanaian custom of Nila where a small cut is made on the child’s face to protect them from convulsions.
However, one in nine people around the world have no access to clean water, while one in three health centres have no safe water source.
Babies born in these health centres will face health risks such as infections, which can be fatal. Every minute a newborn baby dies from infection caused by a lack of safe water and an unclean environment.
Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid said: ‘The birth of a new baby is a time of great joy and celebration, and all over the world, communities hold to traditions believed to keep the mothers safe and bring the babies good luck, happiness or good health.
‘But for the millions of mothers who have no choice but attend a health centre without clean water, they do not have the most important thing to welcome any new life – clean water and a hygienic environment.
‘It’s unacceptable that in the developing world one in three health centres do not have clean water. This means doctors and midwives cannot protect their patients from the risk of infection, and the consequences can be fatal.
‘That’s why we’re putting clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene at the heart of healthcare, helping save lives every day. Healthcare workers can keep their hands and utensils clean; mothers can give birth more safely; and children can stay healthy and in school. That’s the water effect.’
In the USA, a priest baptises four month old Emmeline at the Roman Catholic Holy Family Church in New Jersey. Some Catholics believe pouring holy water over a baby’s head absolves them of original sin
(Picture: WaterAid/Jill Costantino)
Parents Robert, 38, and Marisa, 37, hold their four month old baby Emmeline. She was baptised in a Roman Catholic church (Picture: WaterAid/ Amanda Dolly)Japan
In Japan, baby Miwa, four weeks has a first food ceremony. Natsumi, 29, feeds her daughter Miwa during the ceremony which is called Okuizome
In Sweden, Sebastian, 31, cuts his newborn son Harry’s umbilical cord in an operating theatre at Ostersund hospital. The convention helps fathers feel more involved in the birth.
(Picture: WaterAid/Mikaela Lindstrom)
(Picture: WaterAid/Mikaela Lindstrom)India
In India, Rinku, 22, applies thick, black ‘kajal’ or kohl to her child Kritika’s eyes, to ward off evil spirits.
Rinku said: ‘The tradition of applying kohl or ‘kajal’ to the infant’s eyes and forehead began long ago and has been taught to each generation by the elders.
‘The black kajal protects the child from any evil spirits and keeps them healthy.”
‘Water plays a key role in many of the traditions; it is used to make a special porridge for new mums in Malawi and is mixed with ground tree branch to form a paste to create a ‘masonjoany’ mask in Madagascar.’
(Picture: WaterAid/Prashanth Vishwanathan)
(Picture: WaterAid/Prashanth Vishwanathan)Uganda
In Uganda, Nagit 30, husband Lomer, 32, and baby Bakita sit with their five children after the blessing of their newborn. As part of this, the skin of the Etopojjo tree is soaked in water, forming small strings. These strings are then tied around the baby’s wrist, ankles, neck and waist.
(Picture: WaterAid/James Kiyimba)
(Picture: WaterAid/James Kiyimba)Awas, 58, (far left) serves local beer to her six week old grandson Loumo, mum Sagal, 24, and clan elders. The clan members all drink from one gourd as a sign of peace and togetherness as they welcome the new baby.
(Picture: WaterAid/James Kiyimba)
(Picture: WaterAid/James Kiyimba)
In Zambia, Flora, 59, sits with her daughter, Linety, 18, and prepares to bathe her grandaughter, Maria, one month, in Nsambilo, a concoction of protection made from tree roots, believed to keep the baby healthy and protect her from evil spirits.Provider:
(Picture: WaterAid/Chileshe Chanda)
Linety, 18, bathes her daughter Maria (Picture: WaterAid/Chileshe Chanda)Baby Mutinta, two weeks old, wears ‘kakonde’, a necklace to protect her from vomiting, diarrhoea and bad omens.
Grandma Estheli, 62, covers baby Mutinta, two weeks old, while being held by her mother Chuuma, 18 (Picture: WaterAid/Chileshe Chanda)
Baby Mutinta (Picture: WaterAid/Chileshe Chanda)Nigeria
In Nigeria, the twig tree is held in a calabash bowl waiting to dissolve in water as part of the Nana Fatsuma tradition. The pregnant mum will drink the solution to hasten delivery.
(Picture: WaterAid/Wash Media Network Nigeria)
In Malawi, Lucia, 26, mum to newborn baby Bertha, sits with her mother, Melisa. Melise has made her a special porridge from soya, maize flour and sugar which is given to mums after childbirth. It is thought to give her energy and the nutrients she needs.
(Picture: WaterAid/Jenny Lewis)
Grandmother Melise makes porridge for her daughter, Lucia, 26, who has just given birth to baby Bertha (Picture: WaterAid/Jenny Lewis)
Lucia, 26, mum to newborn baby Bertha, eats a special porridge made from soya, maize flour and sugar which is given to mums after childbirth. (Picture: WaterAid/Jenny Lewis)Madagascar
Nome, 21, wears a ‘masonjoany’ mask to protect herself from the sun and bad spirits. She sits with her sister, who applied the mask. It is made by grinding a sandalwood tree branch and adding water to form a paste. She holds her seven-day-old baby, Jackie Marcel Stephan.
Nome said: ‘In our culture, mothers like me and our newborn babies are not allowed to go outside during the first seven days after the birth.
‘The mother is still suffering and the baby is still very fragile. My older sister applied a ‘masonjoany’ mask to my face to protect it from the sun and from all bad spirits.
‘Once we have made it through these sacred critical seven days, we step outside for a short time to face the reality of life and the bright sun.’
(Picture: WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala)
(Picture: WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala)Scotland
Emma is given a coin by her Nana, Sandra, a custom meant to bring good luck and prosperity.
In Scotland, Ross, 35, and Amanda, 32, from Glasgow hold their five week old baby, Emma (Picture: PAUL WATT PHOTOGRAPHY)
In Scotland, five-week-old Emma is given a coin by her Nana, Sandra, a custom meant to bring good luck and prosperity (Picture: PAUL WATT PHOTOGRAPHY)Ghana
In Ghana, Vida took part in the Kosoto custom following David’s birth where bark from a tree is taken, boiled in water and then poured over her to protect her from stomach problems in future pregnancies.
Caption: Vida Atolyaba, aged 30, holds her son David, aged 3 1/2 months, outside the Busongo Health Centre (Picture: Eliza Powell)
Vida Atolyaba, aged 30 (C) sits with her children (L-R) Patrick, aged 11, David, 2 1/2 months, Hannah, aged 5 and Desmond, aged 3 (Picture: Eliza Powell)Mary, 21, and her husband Sampson performed the Nila tradition where a traditional herbalist makes a small cut on the baby’s cheek, thought to prevent the him from getting convulsions. Both parents also did the Nila tradition as infants.
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