Five of the six parliamentary candidates from, Karonga South constituency contesting in the forthcoming elections on Wednesday shunned a public debate where their electorates wanted to find out the candidates commitment on improving maternal health issues affecting the area.
The area with a population over 50, 000 has been facing maternal related problems including high maternal deaths and teenage pregnancies, and the community has been blaming lack of political will as major contributing factor.
This prompted chiefs and community members with technical and financial support from the district based, Foundation for Community Support Services (FOCUS) to organize the debate where only the incumbent Parliamentarian Grand Chembe Munthali of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) attended.
Those shunned includes Peoples Party’s Malani Mtonga, Peoples Progressive Movement- PPM, Lewis Malangalanga, Independent candidate, Makhumbo James Mapunda, United Democratic Front Greenwell Mponela and Malawi Congress Party- MCP candidate.
“Though I am not aware of the reasons for their absenteeism, I am very disappointed because this was the platform for them share with us what they would do to address maternal health issues affecting the constituency so that the electorates know candidates who meet their expectations on the matter,” said Senior Chief Wasambo during a debate held at Hara, Chilumba in the district.
According to FOCUS Project Coordinator for the Enhenced Community Based Maternal and Neonatal Health, Wakisa Kachali, all aspiring candidates were saved with invitation letters for the debate two weeks before but none of the absentees gave an excuse for the failure to attend.
Executive Director for FOCUS Cossam Muthali said it is unfortunate that the candidates who are aspiring to be representatives of the people at the National Assembly to shunned the debate which was demanding their input on how they would effectively tackle maternal health issues affecting their electorates if they are elected.
“This was their opportunity to interact with their citizens and sell their manifestos on such special issues, and indeed it is a great loss to them for not attending it since they will never have another opportunity to participate,” Munthali said.
However, the community members who were drawn from various villages in the constituency demanded the Organization to organize another debate targeting the absentees to give the voters an opportunity to hear the candidate’s commitment on the matter.
“Sometimes the failure might mean that they have nothing to offer to us on issues affecting hence we don’t need to vote for those who can prioritize our interests” said one of the woman who denied having her name published for fear of reprisals from supporters of the said candidates.
However, the debate continued despite the absence of the five candidates, and the incumbent parliamentarian among other things pledged to lobby for donor funding for implementing maternal health projects in the constituency such as constructing maternity wings in all health centers for women to be accessing antenatal services within their areas.
“When I go to Parliament, I will advocate for more funding for maternal health from the national budget to improve things like shortage of personnel and equipment among others, and I can I sure cases of maternal deaths and related complications will be effectively reduced by 2019,” Munthali said.
Speaking at the debate, District Chief Nursing Officer Emily Gondwe disclosed that most of the maternal deaths happening in the district are due to lack of maternal health facilities, personnel and equipment, and most parliamentarians for the district appear to be silent on the development hence the community members want to hear their commitment towards the matter and vote for the candidate meeting their needs on maternal issues.
“Most women walk long distances to access antenatal services to Chilumba Rural Hospital hence most deliver at home or on their way to the hospital because there are no such services at health facilities within their areas due to lack of structures such as maternal wings”, Gondwe said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :