Bringing maternal and newborn life-saving skills into rural communities in Malawi

News article 30 Aug 2018

Peter Chalusa, Senior Technical Officer, Malawi Team

With support from UNICEF/KOICA, the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) is implementing a project which aims to improve the availability and quality of care for mothers and their babies in five districts in Malawi. These districts were identified by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF as having a lot of gaps for maternal and newborn care.

One of the districts is Nkhatabay, which is in the Northern part of the country and has one of the most difficult terrains in Malawi; most facilities there are unreachable during the rainy season. Bula Health Centre, which is located some 60km away from the main district referral hospital of Nkhatabay is one of the facilities that has benefited from the UNICEF/KOICA funds. The healthcare workers there have just received much-needed training on essential obstetric care (EOC) and Quality Improvement (QI).

Linda, a nurse at Bula Health Centre, expressed her joy and satisfaction after attending the recent EOC training in Mponela. ‘’I used to refer all the cases with both minor and advanced complications whenever I was conducting a delivery. After this training, I will be able to manage most of the complications right at our facility." Linda also indicated that families will benefit greatly from her skills as they will not have to struggle to support their pregnant women who were often asked to find own means of transport to travel to the district. "This is a very big relief to the whole team at the facility. Whenever labour progress was prolonged or obstructed, we would get worried because an ambulance always takes hours to get here and back which made us very sad when babies or women are lost.’’

In addition to Linda, one other nurse and the only clinician at Bula Health Centre also attended the training. Both were happy and thanked LSTM. The team in Bula have also been trained on standards-based audit. Linda mentioned that mixing the EOC skills and the QI knowledge will help the facility to audit their performance, which will ultimately benefit the members of the community who rely on their care.

When the LSTM country team spoke to the Nkhatabay district coordinator for the Safe Motherhood initiative, he agreed that facilities in the remote areas such as Bula had problems referring women on time due to the bad roads. “The team will now be able to handle most of the cases and even for the cases that still require district hospital care, they will be able to prepare the women and babies very well before referral and this will improve the survival chances of these mothers and babies’’. He went on to thank LSTM and its donors for supporting the district with the technical skills and knowledge on quality improvement.

So far, a total of 320 healthcare workers have been trained in EOC and 250 in Quality Improvement by LSTM in the 5 supported districts. We will continue supporting the facilities with mentoring at facility level and through district review meetings to ensure that the facility teams maintain their high levels of performance after the trainings.