Little hope on Maternal and Newborn Health in Malawi

Parliament started meeting in Lilongwe on Friday for a 2016/2017 budget meeting barely touching upon the improvement of survival of mothers and babies in the country.

Little word of hope was given by President Peter Mutharika on the improvement of survival of mothers and babies at the 2016/2017 budget meeting in Lilongwe. 

Despite achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4-consequnetly saving over 280, 000 lives of babies; Malawi continues to lose more lives of babies.The Malawi Countdown Case Study reveals Malawi continues to lose over 14, 000 lives of babies every year.

These statistics and evidence call for drastic measures and actions especially from government in order to promote the survival of mothers and babies in the country.

But delivering the State of National Address (SONA) on the opening of 2016/2017 budget meeting in Lilongwe, President Mutharika did not say much on what Malawi will do to reduce maternal and neonatal deaths.

In order to address shortage of medical personnel, Government is currently processing the recruitment of 1,412 young men and women from the Malawi College of Health Sciences and Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) training institutions...My government will build 140 houses for health workers under Umoyo programme and five flats for staff

Malawi’s health system continues to face chronic shortage of human resources. A 2011 report published by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated a doctor-to-population ratio of 2 doctors to10, 000 patients and a nurse-to-population ratio of 3 nurses to10, 000 in Malawi.  This leaves Malawi with a 65% vacancy rate for nurses and nurse-midwives in health facilities across the country. One nurse said in an interview;

Despite working for 24 hours, we still get low salaries. In fact, we hear it is only us in Malawi who we get low salaries. Our colleagues in neighboring countries get good salaries. And with the stresses that are in the government hospitals some of us prefer to work for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Health workers play a very important role in promoting survival of mothers and babies in the country.Frustrating these health workers with poor work conditions would mean frustrating the survival of mothers and babies.

Stakeholders gathered at Parliament building in Lilongwe on Friday suggested revision of the health workers work conditions. A member of civil society organizations at the parliament building said;

As a country we need to seriously look into the work conditions for our health care workers if we want to retain them. The president would have assured the Malawi nation in his address that government will address issues of low salaries for our health care workers. But he never did. Do you expect the nurses and midwives or even the doctors to remain in the public service? This gives a little hope especially on issues to do with mothers and babies

It is perhaps for this reason why MamaYe Malawi and Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) is calling upon the people of Malawi to take part in the #ValueOurHealth campaign. 

The campaign seeks to call for open and participatory health budgets for our women and children and asking the Government of Malawi to #ValueOurHealth. 

MamaYe Malawi Country Director Mathias Chatuluka said;

We ask that the Government values the people’s health. We urgently need our newborns to receive a clean and safe birth, and we need funding for sanitation within our clinics. We would love if this funding was included within the 2016/2017 fiscal year.

In Malawi, MamaYe Malawi, the Malawi Economic Justice Network and the Malawi Health Equity Network are championing the #ValueOurHealth campaign in order to press for Government for open and participatory health budgets to improve survival of mothers and babies in the country. 

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