We have just completed the second year of our 3 year Big Lottery Funded programme in Malawi. We are working in 80 villages to provide maternal and newborn health information through the establishment of women’s groups so people are aware of the risks of pregnancy and childbirth and can seek medical assistance early.
Maternal and newborn health promotion
In the first 2 years of the project we have established 50 women’s groups in 50 villages with another 30 scheduled in the coming year. A programme of 20 sessions is run in each village providing information on maternal and newborn healthcare, nutrition, hygiene, family planning, women’s equality and general healthcare. A total of 2,417 people have been attending these meetings to learn about the risks to look for during pregnancy and when to seek help. 86% of women attending women’s groups are now aware of the 3 danger signs to look for during pregnancy. 95.2% reported a positive experience and would recommend local healthcare to a friend or relative in the future.
Income generation and women’s empowerment
We’ve provided seed funding and training to 937 people initially this year to enable them to set up their own small businesses. The women use this seed funding (approximately £20), training and support to generate their own income through trading, setting up small shops in the village, investing in bicycle taxis and other small-scale ventures. They re-pay the interest-free seed funding over a period of 4 months. The money returned each month is then given to the next person on the list to receive seed funding, so the money is always in constant use. The first batch of seed funding for 375 women was all repaid in full within 4 months and has already been reinvested; so far it has benefitted 1,006 women.
By enabling women to earn their own money and to become financially independent we are empowering them to become the decision makers about their own healthcare choices. The income generation programme is run alongside the health promotion sessions in the villages, so there is a direct link between increased empowerment, income and knowledge around maternal and newborn healthcare. This in turn has led to an increase in the number of women giving birth at the health centres.
Training skilled staff
We have trained 67 Health Surveillance Assistants (who are employed by the Government to provide healthcare in rural areas) to also provide maternal and newborn health information when in the villages.
We have also trained 24 skilled birth attendants, which means that once women have decided to give birth at a health facility there are fully trained staff available to assist them. Deliveries with a skilled birth attendant present at a health centre have increased from 63% at the beginning of the project to 83.5% half way through the programme, so the staff training along with the health promotion and income generation has already made a huge impact on the number of safe deliveries.
Our two student midwives in Malawi are doing exceptionally well in their course. Robert will complete his course in Spring 2017 and we are currently fundraising to employ him as a midwife in one of the rural health centres in Zomba. This year our annual Muffins for Midwives campaign raised enough to fully fund 2 additional student midwives in Malawi, so they will start their course in the new year.
In the summer we were lucky enough to be donated a 40 foot shipping container to Malawi for free by Maersk (a major international shipping company). We launched an urgent appeal for donations to fill the container and received £25,000 worth of donated items in 4 weeks! The donations included blood pressure monitors, medical equipment, uniforms, solar powered torches and floodlights (for use during the regular power cuts), medical textbooks, furniture, computers, knitted baby vests and blankets and lots more. We were overwhelmed with the generosity of our supporters and the team in Malawi were amazed when the container finally arrived!
Malawi Bike Ride
We held our first ever Malawi bike ride this autumn which saw 14 cyclists cycle across southern Malawi and spend some time visiting the villages and health centres where we are working. The incredible cyclists have already raised over £20,000 which will make a huge difference to the number of women we support.
The building of our Maternity Centre in Kiryabutuzi was finally completed in the summer. We have recruited 2 midwives who have already started to set up and run health promotion sessions in the 14 surrounding villages. They will provide antenatal sessions for pregnant women in the rural and remote villages and advise them where to deliver their baby.
Within a week of the health centre being open we have already had 2 deliveries and our midwives accompanied 2 mothers to Hoima where they required emergency caesareans. All 4 mothers and babies are doing well and these early experiences demonstrate how much a rural maternity centre is needed. Over the next year we hope to increase the number of midwives at the health centre and will be providing a programme of 24 health promotion sessions in each of the 14 villages along with ante-natal care for pregnant women and the income generation programme which has proved to be so successful in Malawi.
Here is baby Nelson Junior, born weighing 3.4kg, with his proud parents Alice and Nelson with our midwife Aziza. Alice gave birth to her first baby at home due to the long distance to the nearest health centre. After attending a health promotion session in her village, run by the Village Health Volunteer we have trained, decided to come to the maternity centre to give birth this time.
It costs just £1,700 a year to employ a Junior Midwife in Uganda so your kind regular support really does make a huge difference. We have very ambitious plans to expand our programmes in 2017 and help more mothers to give birth safely.
We are delighted to announce that Lensa, our first ever student midwife, has graduated this summer, finishing 3rd in her cohort. Lensa is keen to work in a rural health centre so as soon as a vacancy comes up she will move there. The three waiting houses we built in Ethiopia have now been handed over to the local Government to run and are being well used by pregnant women waiting to give birth in the health centre next-door.
We really value your continued support for our ambitious plans in 2017, thank you.