Malawi on track to tackle soaring rates of maternal death -Ngoma

Since taking over office in April this year, President Mrs. Joyce Banda has singled out safe motherhood as her top priority. Nearly five months down the line, a lot of work has already been done on the ground to improve the otherwise horrific situation where about 12 pregnant women reportedly die every day in Malawi while giving birth.

But what strategies are being put in place to turn around the volatile situation? Nyasa Times assigned its reporter Taonga Botolo to interview National Coordinator of Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood Dorothy Ngoma to find out more.   Here is the interview verbatim;

Nyasa Times (NT): What has been the progress like since assuming office as Cordinator of the PresidentialInitiative on Maternal Health?

Dorothy Ngoma (DN): Actually, so many things have happened in the four months I have been in office. But you may wish to know that my office and indeed the State President Mrs. Joyce Banda are all very much committed to reducing the shocking high maternal rate which is currently at 675 deaths as per 100 000 women that give birth here in Malawi. We’re number two in Africa and number four the whole world in terms of maternal deaths registered.

Ngoma: We are making progress

Such is the horrible environment our beloved women are in. It’s painful considering the fact that we have never been to war of any kind and yet our neighbors [Mozambique] they were at war for over 20 years and today they are by far better off than us, it seems something somewhere is wrong and needs attention.

NT: What are the main components you have centered on as priority areas?

DN: I was called to duty by the president and there are three components that are driving the whole campaign. Firstly, we are looking to it that there is community mobilization at the grass root level across the country and this is being led by Inkosi Kwataine and he is doing a good job under the present circumstances. He is working closely with fellow chiefs and the district commissioners and the coordination so far has been absolutely wonderful. The second component is the building of shelters and thanks to the good will from the general public and the president, already one shelter in Mulanje is almost finished, in Balaka and Dowa work is in progress but its nearing completion as well while in Mchinji the construction of a shelter will commence this week or next week. Thirdly, it’s the most critical area which is resource mobilization. You know for the initiative to be successful it needs a lot of funds and I’m glad that we have a president in our midst who is personally generating funds for the project.

NT: Tell us what has been the commitment like on the part of both local and international donors?

DN: As I earlier said, the safe motherhood project was launched four months ago and today we are talking of shelters being built across the country, in just four months. This has been made possible courtesy of good partnership with both public and private institutions. For instance, the Mulanje shelter as you all know is being built with funds from the Standard Bank while the electrical wiring is being done by Sharma electrical for free. Others like Eco Bank and several well wishers have also pledged to play a part into the initiative, to me that is very encouraging. Whereas on the part of international donors, something is being donor only that it takes little bit of time, institutions like UNFPA and government of Norway have all expressed commitment to help us with funds. All this is being made possible because of the trust they have for the top leadership of this country.

NT: If the pace you have taken is anything to go by where do you see Malawi’s maternal health record in say next two to three years?

DN: We are on the move but it all requires goodwill and team work. It’s not only the responsibility of the president or Mrs. Ngoma to reduce maternal deaths in Malawi. Let us all join forces and work towards arresting this problem. I feel sorry when I see my country scrambling for 20 beds yet if are to contribute something individually we can buy those beds to each and every health in the country but it all needs commitment and eager. In the next two years Malawi will start registering low maternal deaths that I can assure you. I’m actually thrilled by the mobilization efforts our chiefs have taken at community level that encapsulated by political will has made the project to start off on a rather high note barely four months of its inception.

NT: What challenges is the project facing?

DN: There are so many challenges but we have made it a point not to focus much on them otherwise we will derail. However, there are some areas that are critical. We started the project without any penny but issues of funds to me are secondary the primary thing is commitment, so I’m glad to say that I am committed, the president and her government is committed, Inkosi Kwataine and entire chiefs are committed, maybe the only group of people that are not committed is you journalists you haven’t helped us in publicizing the project instead you focus much on the dirty and negative things.

As you know we have planned to build 130 shelters across the country and ministry of health on its own cannot afford to do it alone that is why I’m calling on patriotic Malawians to contribute little something to the project like cement, iron sheets, transport and labor. If the whole country is committed to this cause we can make remarkable progress within one year. It pains me to see two women who have just delivered sharing the same bed, that’s the real situation on the ground and it is what we are trying to turn around.

NT: Having outlined the challenges what strategy has been devised so far to overcome them?

DN: The most important thing is to have a top political leadership that is committed and we have already seen that in President Mrs. Banda who has embarked on a journey to raise all the resources required so that we don’t falter along the way. It is worth mentioning that her government has promised to allocate my department with funds in the 2013/2014 financial year. That is also part of the good news because it will sustain the initiative. Not only that but I also mentioned of other few Malawians who have shown commitment to help us in the best way they can, the same is applying to other offshore organizations I already mentioned as well. So far I can confidently say that we are on track there shall always be mountains to climb but we shall overcome them make no mistake. There has been a lot of firefighting but I’m certain that we will get organized as we go along. The resources will help us train young women across the country as community midwifery attendants who will eventually replace the traditional birth attendants.

NT: Anything to add?

DN: Yes, Malawi as a country came from a mother so all-I-can-say is to call on well-wishers to join the presidential initiative because it is the only way to turn around the country’s maternal death misfortunes.

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