USAID estimates 20% of Malawi women not accessing family planning methods

One in every five women continues to report unmet family planning needs coupled with inadequate access to maternal health services, a situation that contributes to early childbearing and high fertility rates.

The United States Agency International for Development (USAID) Deputy Mission Director, Melissa Francis, said these, in turn, are the factors contributing to high numbers of maternal and child deaths in Malawi.

Kanyasho making her acceptance speech outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Health at Capital Hill–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

Francis made the remarks at Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe on Friday when she handed over USAID-funded health infrastructure to the Ministry of Health.

She observed that despite making significant and notable achievements in delivery of quality healthcare services, Malawi’s lifetime risk of maternal death is among the highest in the world, with neonatal deaths representing 44 percent of child mortality.

Francis emphasizing a point during her speech at the handover ceremony at Bwaila Hospital–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

“In light of this, it is more important than ever to heighten our efforts to enable stronger country leadership and sustainable high-impact partnerships such as this. In order to advance the health gains achieved, we will continue to work hand in hand to expand health services, particularly to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities,” said Francis.

She disclosed that, over the past five years, USAID has supported District Health Management Teams to deliver quality services in the areas of maternal, neonatal and child health, family planning, malaria, nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene.

She added that critical infrastructure investments were also made to ensure appropriate space and environment for dignified and respectable care.

Francis cited the renovation of a paediatric ward at Dowa District Hospital with proper ventilation, a treatment station, a nurses’ office station with proper furniture.

Francis (in pink jacket) handing over the keys to Kanyasho as senior government officials look on–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

“A maternity ward of the same hospital was renovated and expanded to provide single delivery suites that ensure privacy and space where a companion or a husband can support a mother throughout the childbirth process,” she narrated.

In her remarks, the Deputy Minister of Health and Population, Chrissie Kalamula Kanyasho, said the Malawi Government, through its Health Sector Strategic Plan, has outlined infrastructure development as a priority intervention for the country to deliver its essential health package that is focusing on reducing high numbers of morbidity and mortality facing the country.

Kanyasho stated that as the plan is coming to its final year, it has become evident, through the midterm review, that the country still has a lot to do in order to achieve the targets it set for itself in infrastructure development.

She said it is against this backdrop that the Ministry of Health and the district councils are excited to receive huge investments the US Government has made in addressing infrastructure challenges in 16 districts where USAID is implementing ONSE Project.

“I am particularly touched that the infrastructure support did not only target district hospitals but also health centers and community hospitals as well. This is indeed commendable as all the four levels of health services delivery in Malawi have benefitted from the support. It is the Ministry’s wish that all these levels, play their rightful role in disease prevention and delivery of essential health services,” said the Deputy Minister.

ONSE Project is under implementation in Chitipa, Karonga, and Nkhata Bay in the North, Nkhotakota, Salima, Dowa, Lilongwe Kasungu Mchinji in the Central Region and Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi, Mulanje, Chikwawa and Zomba in the Southern Region.

Kanyasho said they decided to hold the symbolic handover of all infrastructure development at Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe in the spirit of efficiency.

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