Handwashing and hygiene are crucial during the first 28 days after the delivery of a baby, underscored the session, ‘28 Days’, which opened to a reasonably packed audience in Beach Luxury Hotel’s main garden at the Karachi Literature Festival on Sunday.
Model and actor Sanam Saeed, who was moderating the session, introduced the six panelists — including photographers Tapu Javeri, Mallika Abbas, Arif Mahmood, international adoption lawyer Tahera Hasan, Dr Sadia Pal and Dr Shakil Rizvi.
The book, ’28 Days’ documents the work of the three afore-mentioned photographers, who captured three different strata of society, with the aim of highlighting the importance of neonatal care.
Javeri, who dealt with the ‘contact’ aspect, shared how it was the most “eye-opening experience to go to a hospital and watch babies being delivered”, adding that it was both upsetting and wonderful at the same time.
Dr Sadia Pal, an obstetrician, stressed the importance of education to create better awareness regarding hygiene.
“Can one tell their relatives to wash hands before kissing or touching the newborn? This awareness can only come about through education.”
Tahera Hasan, who runs a healthcare facility in Karachi’s Machar Colony, said that she observed an aversion to cleanliness, while working with mothers.
She said midwives are often asked by families to shed doctor-like habits while performing deliveries, such as washing hands.
Mallika Abbas, who dealt with environment in her work, briefly touched upon her experience of photographing mothers in Rahim Charan — a village in interior of Sindh that is devoid of basic amenities like gas and water. In testing environments like these, mothers are steadfast in their resolve to impart better hygiene to their babies, she said.
Arif Mahmood, who focused on a baby’s interaction with his immediate guardians, divulged his experience of photographing an ordinary family, which had just welcomed a newborn. As tradition dictates, the mother spent the first couple of weeks at her parents’ home, where everyone was meticulous when it came to the baby’s care.
In underscoring the importance of handwashing, the panelists acknowledged the one massive limitation that restricts hygiene in Karachi: scarcity of water.
Dr Sadia firmly said that while advocacy is good on public and private platforms like KLF, ultimately the onus lies on the government to improve the situation.