White Ribbon Alliance

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Malawi’s Government Must Act to Save Lives

September 29, 2015
By Enock Mnyenyembe, White Ribbon Alliance Malawi reporter

At a time when global leaders are meeting in New York City to agree on the development goals for the next 15 years, Malawian citizens are demanding that our government delivers on its basic responsibility to provide decent health care to women and children.

People who live in Mzuzu city in Northern Malawi say they urgently need a fully functioning district hospital in the city, equipped with the staff and facilities needed to save the lives of mothers in emergencies. To date, in the absence of hospital, women who may be at risk of dying in childbirth have no choice but to attend Mpale Health Centre, an overcrowded primary health facility without the capacity to provide adequate maternal health care to women and girls for the entire city.

Mzuzu resident Monica Ziba, aged 31, began to walk to the Health Centre when she was in labour, but without an ambulance or other transport she didn’t make it in time. Said Monica: “I gave birth on the way to the hospital. I had my baby outdoors on the ground outside Katoto Secondary School, which is about a kilometer from the Mpala Health facility.”

This is a very dangerous and distressing experience for both mother and newborn. If the distance was far to walk, why then didn’t Monica go to the health facility before her baby was due?

Monica explained, “The health centre does not have the capacity to keep all the expectant women at the facility, so women are told to wait until they experience labour pains before they set out on the road. People also have to find their own means of transport, but women who don’t have the cash are forced to walk to the facility. Alternatively they can use a bicycle taxi to the health centre, but that is not healthy or safe for a woman who is about to give birth.”

Monica believes the government must be accountable to the citizens for health services: “There is need for government to construct more health facilities in various locations of the city, including a district hospital.”

This could save the lives of those women and their newborns, who have life threatening complications, and who need to be referred to hospital with emergency obstetric care facilities.

Kauluka Mutonga ,Block Leader of Geisha Township in the city, said: “We experience many problems in terms of health service delivery, especially in maternal health. There is need for government to construct more health facilities, including a district hospital in the city. This is the only way to solve the challenges which people are now facing in terms of health care at government health facilities.”

Mutonga also said that citizens are engaging the Mzuzu city council authorities and politicians so that they help them in solving the current problems people in terms of the need for quality health care. Mzimba North District Health Officer Dr Khumbo Shumba admitted that there is need a district hospital in the city to reduce congestion at Mapale Health Centre, and that this compromises quality health care. Dr Shumba said: “There are plans for the construction of a district hospital and some health centres in various locations, but the problems is lack financial resources to construct the said facilities. “ However, he was quick to say that the powers to fund and construct a health facility or a district hospital lie in the hands of Ministry of Health. What’s more, plans at district level are not fixed because they depend on the Ministry’s approval and implementation.

This is why citizens in Malawi will continue to make their voices heard, demanding that resources are made available by our national government for maternal and newborn health care, and that the people receive the quality health services which are their right.