Traditional leaders asked to modify some cultural practices for safe motherhood

By Mwayi Mekemeke 25/11/2013

While President Joyce Banda’s intervention in safe motherhood is recognize worldwide to be yielding much needed results, traditional leaders in the country have been asked to modify some cultural practices that increase maternal and child mortality.

Minister of Health, Catherine Gotani Hara made the remarks over the weekend when she was launching the Christian Hospitals Association of Malawi – African Medical and Research Foundation (CHAM – AMREF) Staying Alive maternal and neonatal health project at Nkope Health Centre in Mangochi.
Hara observed that traditional leaders in the country can play a very critical role in modifying some of the cultural practices which contribute to the increase in deaths among pregnant mothers and their newly born babies.
“Some cultural practices being observed in some communities have hugely contributed to loss of life among expectant mothers and newly born babies.

“Such customs/cultures include prohibiting a woman from attending antenatal clinics and refraining a pregnant woman from rushing to hospital when labour has started awaiting consent from an uncle for example,” Hara explained.

She urged traditional leaders to play a very significant role in using their influence to change some of the practices for the betterment of women of child bearing age and infants who were vulnerable to diseases by virtue of their low immunity.
Hara also encouraged all the development structures in the community to take the issue of maternal health as priority in their development activities.
The Minister, however, encouraged women to go to hospital for screening during the early stages of pregnancy to avoid giving birth to children with HIV.

On its part, Hara said government is working towards training more health workers as a means of providing equitable and essential health services to all. She said government is currently implementing a community nurse mid – wife programme to service hard to reach areas.
Hara commended CHAM – AMREF for deciding to come to Malawi to complement government in her efforts of reducing maternal and child mortality.

“AMREF has just responded to President Dr. Joyce Banda’s call through the presidential initiative on safe motherhood which attempts to check overpopulation, reducing the number of women dying of complications while giving birth and neonates,” she added.
AMREF Director for Southern Africa, Dr. Connie Osborne observed that at least one woman dies while giving birth in Sub – Saharan, a trend which needed to be reversed.
“Giving birth should be a time of joy, not of loss and sadness,” Osborne said, adding: “The best gift one can give to a newborn is a live and a well mother.”
Osborne said the Staying Alive Project was aimed at saving the lives of mothers thereby contributing towards president Banda’s safe motherhood initiative and the attainment of MDG 5 in the country.

She said the project would strive at increasing the number of antenatal clinic visits, delivery by skilled birth attendants, making available essential life saving commodities which are timely administered to prevent bleeding, among other objectives.
Representing the District Commissioner at the launch, District Education Manager Sam Kalanda disclosed that the district is faced with a number of challenges in the health sector with bad indicators in maternal mortality rate as compared to other districts.
However, Kalanda said the district council was working towards improving the indicators to reduce deaths among pregnant mothers, neonates and the occurrence of fistula, the latter which manifests as a result early pregnancies.

“In our collaboration with various partners in the health sector, we would like to improve the capacity of health workers as well ensure building the capacity in our facilities to provide basic essential health services,” Kalanda said.