White Ribbon Alliance Malawi Uses Innovative Ways to Reduce Maternal Deaths in Mangochi District
By Mande Limbu
Recently a team from White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) Global Secretariat and WRA Malawi members visited Njereza area in Mangochi district where WRA Malawi has its district chapter. A hard-to-reach area, Njereza is located 12 Kilometers away from the main road and 35 Kilometers from the nearest health facility. Before WRA Mangochi’s community mobilization efforts, it was common for women to deliver at home with the help of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) and without access to antenatal clinic. There were cases of maternal deaths due to post-partum hemorrhage and fistula due to prolonged labor. Practices that put mothers and children at risk, such as domestic violence and early marriages, were rampant.
WRA was established in Mangochi district in 2003 with the aim of mobilizing community members to promote maternal health by disseminating safe motherhood information through songs, poems and drama. WRA members in Mangochi have recently introduced a Neighborhood and Support System. Through this system, all pregnant women in the Njereza community are identified and visited by WRA member volunteers. The volunteers visit pregnant women at their own houses, in some cases more than 10 Kilometers away from where the volunteers live, to provide them with safe motherhood information. They also encourage pregnant women to attend clinic and deliver at the health facility, as well as encourage husbands to escort their wives to the health facility.
Since WRA in Mangochi have no funding to support this system, they have started a huge vegetable garden as an income generating activity. The little income that is generated from selling vegetables is given to the identified pregnant women to pay for transport to the health facility for delivery. Not all the vegetables are sold. Some are provided to the pregnant women for free to help with their nutrition needs. WRA in Mangochi is planning to reach 37 villages through this system. Mike Bestin, the focal person for WRA in Mangochi, told the team that, since WRA started its community mobilization activities, cases of maternal deaths and pregnancy-related complications have been significantly reduced in Njereza.
This story is yet another testament to how cost-effective innovations coupled with dedication and the spirit of volunteerism can be used to improve maternal health and hopefully reduce needless deaths during pregnancy and childbirth. In Mangochi, traditional leaders play a big role in supporting WRA activities. The Chairperson of WRA in Mangochi is Group Village Headman John Sawadi, whom the team had the pleasure to meet during this visit. What is missing in this picture is the support from the government of Malawi in terms of ensuring all women, particularly those living in hard-to-reach areas, have access to quality maternal health care.
Join WRA Malawi in advocating for the highest standard of safe motherhood services in order to make pregnancy safe for all women!