The Likhubula Partnership responded very favourably to supporting Ann Gloag’s 2012 challenge to Rotary Clubs across Scotland to help transform maternity care in Malawi.
The Freedom From Fistula Foundation works in Sierra Leone, Kenya and Malawi; since 2008 over 4000 African women and girls have been helped by treatment and prevention with free maternity care. But current resources are insufficient; prevention needs more midwives, particularly in Malawi.
Fistula occurs during obstructed labour when maternity care is unavailable. Women struggle until the baby dies. During this agonising process, women are so badly damaged they become incontinent. These women and girls are often ostracised by their families and communities.
Every two seconds a woman is injured or disabled in childbirth and an estimated two million women live with fistula.
Former Malawian President Mrs. Joyce Banda launched the Presidential Initiative on Maternal Child Health and Safe Motherhood as a commitment to improving maternity care in Malawi and reducing the levels of neonatal and maternal deaths- these are currently around 675 per 100,000 live births.
Through face-to-face discussions with President Banda, Ann Gloag learned that the key to providing sustainable, improved healthcare for women through pregnancy and childbirth was the recruitment and training of a minimum of 200 midwives. The training, over a two year period, combines classroom-based theory with practical training. The training has been accredited by the General College of Malawi, ensuring that trained midwives will have to remain in Malawi to work. Currently two colleges are being used for the training –Ekwendeni College in the north and St Luke's College in the south.
Ann threw out the challenge to Scottish Rotary Clubs to fund the balance of 150 midwifes. Scotland’s Rotarians were up for the challenge having worked closely with the Gloag Foundation’s work on Mercy ships and put together a project for approval by Rotary International.
The Likhubula Partnership, having learned of this initiative, felt that it was a very worthwhile project and one which we should support financially by donating monies through The Bridge of Allan and Dunblane Rotary Club. £7800 was committed from the Charity’s funds. This would be further supplemented by equivalent funding from within Rotary International. Project funding of £125,000 has just been approved during October 2013.
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Once trained, the majority of midwives will be deployed to rural locations.
The building of hostels close to existing clinics will further enable midwives to practice effectively and enable women to come to the clinics for observation up to two/three weeks before their due date, which is crucial to reducing the occurrence of Obstetric Fistula.
The Malawi Government have identified an initial seven districts in which these 24 and 36 bed 'Waiting Shelters' are to be built. The first shelter has already been completed at Mulanje, close to Likhubula. Women can come there and have a bed and food as well as be monitored by trained midwives until they deliver their baby. In October 2013, it has been confirmed that the Gates Foundation has agreed to support this initiative.