Newborn mortality rates in Zambia have been cut thanks to motherhood action groups
Doris Kangolo is just days away from giving birth.
Today she is resting in the comfort of the Fiwale Maternity Waiting House, which provides a safe and restful place for women to await the births of their babies.
“I live about 10 kilometres from the nearest clinic,” Doris says. “During my previous six pregnancies I came to the clinic by bicycle to deliver my children. That was very painful.”
In many respects Doris is luckier than many women in Zambia. Those who live even more remotely cannot even make it to a health facility on time, with some living more than 60 miles from their nearest hospital.
These women are frequently forced to give birth at home in unsterile conditions and with little assistance.
Many women are prevented from giving birth safely owing to traditional beliefs and myths around assisted labour. It is hardly surprising that Zambia suffers from an excessively high maternal mortality rate of 591 deaths per 100,000 births.
A Safe Motherhood Action Group set up in Doris’s community of Masaiti district, in Zambia’s central Copperbelt Province, gives her and women like her the knowledge and access needed for a safe birth. The group comprises local volunteers who support pregnant women by promoting safe ante-natal care and referring women and babies for specialist care when needed.
Pregnant women are welcomed at the Fiwale Maternity Waiting House, which is run with support from Unicef and the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia, and are allowed to stay with a caregiver for up to four months before giving birth. It’s just a few metres from the local health centre.
While the Ministry of Health in Zambia recommends that all rural health centres must have a mothers’ shelter, the Fiwale Maternity Waiting House is currently the only one operational in Doris’s district.
Since Safe Motherhood Action Groups have been established, the district has seen a drop in the number of babies and mothers dying. “We’ve scored tremendous success in reducing post-natal haemorrhage, mothers are registering early for antenatal care, and we’ve reduced the number of maternal complications,” says Joseph Musonda, the Ministry of Health’s planning manager for Masaiti district.
With your help, the Fiwale Maternity Waiting House and local Safe Motherhood Action Group, plus many more like these in surrounding districts, can be supported to offer mothers like Doris a safe place to give birth and the best possible start for their babies.
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