Making motherhood safer in Malawi
“Today I have a baby,” says 24-year-old Stella, proudly. It’s happy news, but Stella has suffered many losses on her journey to motherhood.
Stella has given birth to 4 babies but, tragically, 3 were stillborn. During her fourth pregnancy she was supported by Plan’s safe motherhood volunteers, and gave birth at the Plan-supported Chitedze Health Center – which serves the communities of Kango and Sankhani in central Malawi.
It was the first time that Stella had used the health center. In the past, she had relied on the traditional birth attendants, who are still favored by many people in rural Malawi, despite the fact that they often lack skills and knowledge of modern medicine.
Women in Kango and Sankhani usually rely on untrained traditional birth attendants and have trouble accessing antenatal care and skilled support when having their babies. All too often it is too late to get women to hospital when emergencies happen. Lack of transport causes delays and health centers face shortages of drugs and equipment.
Working with Lilongwe District Health Office, Plan took on the challenge of making motherhood safer by training 30 health workers from the Chitedze Health Center in emergency obstetric and newborn care.
Fifty traditional birth attendants were also given specialized training, 30 volunteers were trained to give support to pregnant women, and local leaders were educated to start changing community attitudes to childbirth.
Thanks to this support, more pregnant women are now using services at the health center, and more babies are being delivered by skilled professionals. In 2010, 97% of pregnant women in the area gave birth at Chitedze Health Center compared to 50% in 2008.
The result has been no maternal deaths, newborn deaths or stillbirths in Kango and Sankhani since the project began.
Stella, who now has a baby boy, wants other women to experience her happiness: “The midwives at Chitedze Health Center really helped me to have a live baby. I urge all women to go for antenatal care and deliver at the health center. They will not regret it.”
Health center workers are also enthusiastic about the project’s success. One commented: “Plan is saving lives, and maternal and newborn deaths will be history if we can all work together.”
Learn more about Plan’s work in Malawi.