Our Community Partnership in Malawi is now up and running, with the aim of delivering improved maternal and neo-natal healthcare for women.
We believe that every mother should be able to give birth safely with the medical care she needs, and we're delighted that 10 churches or groups of churches across Scotland - in Kirkcudbright, Annan, Glasgow, Falkirk, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Lerwick - have pledged to raise £5,000 each for this project in Karonga District in northern Malawi.
This money will then be match-funded by the Scottish Government at a ratio of 7:1, resulting in over £400,000 going directly towards saving mothers' lives and improving care for new mums and babies.
Since the project began in Summer 2013, our team in Malawi have met with our partners to agree a plan of action, and the first activities have been carried out.
Already our partners have held two 10-day residential training programmes for 63 Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) and procured 63 bicycles for the HSAs to be able to visit their patients in their communities. Other equipment has also been bought, including baby weighing scales and clinical thermometers.
In addition, 36 traditional birth attendants have been trained in their new roles as 'mothers' helpers', to promote counselling and increase referral to health facilities for skilled ante-natal care, labour and delivery care, and post-natal care for both mother and baby.
It's important to remember that this project is not just about the mums, but is also working to ensure dads understand the role they have in bringing a new child into the world. 91 men have been trained in two sessions as 'men as partners' in health.
'Men as partners' is a group of men that are trained on various health issues to act as male advocates to fellow men on issues of positive masculinity, to help in positive decision-making, and to support their partners in positive health-seeking behaviours.
This training has already been very successful, surpassing the target of involving 50 men.
Dr Martin Banda is the Head of the Nyungwe health centre in Karonga. This health centre attends to 40,000 people with only five members of staff and one ambulance.
The facilities they do have are poor. For example, fathers are unable to attend the actual births, in order to protect the privacy of the other women present. They do not have baby-sized resuscitation equipment, and until recently there was nowhere for women who had just given birth to wash.
Martin Banda says, 'some women still deliver at home because they live so far away, they do not want to leave existing children or they leave it too late. Some have their babies at home because they still somehow feel safe there. We need to be ready to give these women the right services.'
A mother's view
Tamara Mhango is 21 and has two children. She told us, 'I have two children, I gave birth to my first son at the health facility but my second was born at home, I left it too late, and it was dark so I could not get to the health centre. I was scared.'
‘I want to tell women about why it is so important to go to the health centre.'
Tamara continued, 'sometimes there is no way to get to the hospital. We need a bike ambulance to ferry pregnant women, or even a motorbike which could take the women to the centres.
'Women can have a lot of problems if they have the baby at home, sometimes they bleed a lot, sometimes the baby is the wrong way around, or the women feel a lot of pain. Sometimes the women get confused, or have fits.
'I want to get involved, I want to tell women about why it is so important to go to the health centre. I will go and talk to women and tell them with my own experience.'
Over the next two years the churches who have committed to this partnership will put on a number of fundraising events to enable them to each reach their £5,000 targets.
This money and the match-funding from the Scottish Government will be used to respond to the needs of medical professionals like Dr Martin and mums like Tamara, in Karonga District.
Look out for news of their fundraising efforts in our local events section, and you too could help support mums, dads and new babies in Malawi.
Find out about other Community Partnerships you can get involved in, including a maternal health project in Kenya.
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