Misuzi Tembo is pregnant with her first child. While she would rather be sharing this joyful and nerve-wracking life experience with her husband, she is often alone. Misuzi‘s husband lives and works in South Africa to support their family.
This situation is common for many of the women living in her village of Kayeleka Banda. Often women go through pregnancy and childbirth while their husbands are away.
But things have been changing in Kayeleka Banda.
In 2012, PWS&D started implementing a maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) project to benefit vulnerable women and their newborns living in remote communities in Malawi. By building the skills of health workers, ensuring facilities have the correct medical tools and empowering women to take control of their reproductive health, the project is helping moms and babies embrace healthy, hopeful futures.
Before the project came to Kayeleka Banda, the village experienced a high volume of neonatal and maternal deaths. Now with local leaders and volunteers encouraging participation in the program, supporting access to medical treatment and promoting increased male participation, mothers and babies are surviving childbirth and thriving. Collaboration at all levels of village leadership encourages people to continue their involvement.
For the past five years, a Village Safe Motherhood Committee (VSMC) has been operating in Misuzi‘s village. In that time, the committee has encouraged women to attend antenatal care appointments regularly.
Misuzi learned this lesson well. Not only has she attended the four recommended antenatal visits, she made sure that one of them was during her first three months of pregnancy. Without the project, “I didn’t know how important antenatal care is during the first three months. My husband also attended with me in order to learn about my pregnancy.”
It was important to Misuzi to have her husband attend the appointments with her. Encouraging the active involvement of fathers during pregnancy and in caregiving after the baby is born is an integral part of the work of the VSMC. Through awareness and sensitization activities in the village, gender roles and responsibilities are discussed. To help ensure active male engagement, fathers are encouraged to attend antenatal care appointments with their wives. It’s also at these antenatal appointments where family planning is discussed and accessed.
Because of the project, Misuzi also receives the iron tablets she needs to combat anemia, as well as anti-malaria prophylaxis that is helping her stay healthy during the pregnancy. “I would not have been able to access these [medicines] without the project.”
The VSMC continues their work because they see how vital it is for the health of moms, babies and the community as a whole. As one member shared, “Things are different now than they were at the start of the project. The health of mothers and children is being supported now in a way that it never was before!”
*PWS&D’s maternal and child health program receives generous funding from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.