When she was President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, caused sensation when her photo went viral online capturing her leading lby example by carrying a bucket of water on her head to share the experiences of motherhood and promote water supply and development together with her people. This weekend, Melinda Gates, the wife of Bill Gates is also trending on Instragram and Twitter with the photo of her urprised fetching water by carrying a bucket weighing 20 litres on her head on a short walk during her visit to Malawi.
Despite her status as been married to the richest man in the world, Melinda didn’t just carry the bucket on her head but also helped in washing dishes and stayed in the home of a couple in a village.
“During my stay with the Gawanini family in Malawi, I joined the women collecting drinking water. I carried 20 liters and it was tough. Meanwhile, Chrissy (middle) is carrying about 40 liters. Many women do this every day,’”she said of her experience.
Speaking further, Melinda said, “Helping wash the dishes during my homestay in Malawi. Women spend much of the day cooking and then cleaning up. It’s a reminder that it’s a lot more time consuming to do dishes when you can’t just turn on a faucet.”
This was the second visit of Melinda to Malawi on safemotherhood mission, probably a follow-up on the earlier visit when she discussed a number of innovative interventions to halt maternal deaths with Banda.
Banda was widely credited for their unprecedented achievements in improving maternal health and safe motherhood. During her reign, between 2012 and 2014, she took an extra mile to curb avoidable deaths of both mothers and babies during pregnancy and childbirth.
Former President Banda believed that the provision of quality maternal and neonatal health care services to completely end maternal and neonatal deaths was of paramount importance in Malawi’s development agenda.
On ascension to the High Office in 2012, Banda established the Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood, which championed efforts to fight maternal mortality.
The Initiative intensified community mobilization and training of chiefs, construction of maternity waiting homes and training of community midwives.
At the time Banda left office in May 2014, the Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood had built 20 maternity holding shelters at various hospitals across the country. The African Union (AU) reporte dthat Malawi had moved from 675 to 460 deaths per 100,000 births that time. The African Union gave the Malawi Government an Award at its headquarters in Addis Ababafor improvements in maternal health.
These achievements were as a result of political will prevailing at that time coupled with dedication and hard work by the Initiative’s personnel led by renowned and veteran nurse, Dorothy Ngoma; the department of Maternal and Reproductive Health at the Ministry of Health; and the committee of chiefs headed by Chief Kwataine of Ntcheu.
The private sector is credited for financially supporting the construction of 20 maternity holding shelters (one holding shelter in Area 25 in Lilongwe was donated by Melinda Gates following Government’s request).
The Ann GloagFoundation of Scotland supported the Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood to train 100 community midwives. Under this special training programme, the Joyce Banda Foundation also facilitated the training of 50 community midwives.
The Ann Gloag Foundation has also been supporting the Bwaila Hospital Fistula Centre for many years.
Since the new regime came in 2014, 380 women have died over the last six months, according to official statistics. The Presidential Initiative was abolished and staff sacked. The President engaged his sister-in-law to implement maternal health and safe motherhood initiatives, instead. The committee of chiefs has since been abolished and not one maternal holding shelter has been built since last year.
To compound the situation, media reports indicate that the health system in Malawi is on the verge of collapse and there are allegations K6 billion ($12million) worth of hospital drugs have been lost through theft.
Official statistics indicate that between 2009 and 2012, 675 women died per 100,000 live births; between 2012 and mid-2014,425 women died per 100,000 live births; and that between mid-2014 and to-date the figures have swollen to 465 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Pregnant women, once again,face the danger of dying while giving birth courtesy of a lack of political will under President Mutharika. There is deafening silence on matters of maternal health.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :