A rural community in Mitundu, Lilongwe, has become the birthplace of the country’s first baby born to a confirmed coronavirus (Covid-19) case.
Around 8pm on a chilly Wednesday, a 28-year-old returnee from South Africa delivered Baby Promise—a boy weighing three kilogrammes—in a 55-minute operation on a tattered bed in a dimly-lit theatre without goggles, scrubs, doors, heartbeat monitor and oxygen cylinder.
Lilongwe District Health Office (DHO) director of health and social services Dr Alinafe Mbewe said in an interview yesterday both the mother and the baby are fine.
She said: “There is no evidence of transmission from mother to baby, so no special precautions. The mother will be tested again on day 14 to see if the infection has cleared.”
Mbewe attributes the success to team work and a sense of urgency that eliminated the possibility of death and coronavirus transmission during the operation that normally takes 30 to 45 minutes.
“We achieved this through teamwork and constant communication on both ends—Bwaila Hospital in the capital city and Mitundu,” she said.
Since laboratory results on June 4 showed that the pregnant woman was Covid-19 positive, nurse Nyembezi Gausi, anaesthetist Grace Kapalamula and clinician-turned-surgeon Donallia Chaggwa-Namathanga worked closely with Mitundu clinician-in-charge Antony Chafunya and community health workers to trace her in Mlale, a community several kilometres from Mitundu.
“It’s a plus for us. It shows we have good organisation and communication to deliver in a difficult environment. This case has taught us to always prepare not to fail,” says Chafunya.
Every day, staff at Mitundu see almost 300 outpatients and attend to the birth of 25 babies, with eight requiring the procedure.
Ministry of Health director of quality management Dr Andrew Likaka says all Malawians ought to celebrate the sacrifices that health workers are making to save lives amid the global pandemic.
Covid-19, discovered in China six months ago, has killed six people from 564 confirmed cases in Malawi.
The global burden of the pandemic exceeded 430 000 deaths from over eight million confirmed cases the day the baby was born.
The worldwide coronavirus spread created a climate of fear among health workers, with some staging strikes to demand adequate protective equipment and risk allowances.
Likaka pays tribute to the selfless trio led by medical officer Dr Thokozani Liwewe, which assisted the woman with pregnancy-related complications detected in South Africa, the epicentre of coronavirus in southern Africa.
Says quality controller: “Despite the challenges in the health system and indeed management of Covid-19, healthcare workers remain motivated by successful outcomes. Frontline healthcare workers are putting their lives at risk day and night to serve the vulnerable communities. They deserve a pat on the back!”
Liwewe said she was proud of the team’s achievement.
“When duty called after they had knocked off, not one of them hesitated. This should assure Malawians that as health workers, we are willing to sacrifice our lives to save them in any situation, no matter what danger it poses to our lives,” she said.
The Ministry of Health has confirmed two cases of pregnant women with Covid-19.
The United Nations (UN) is working with the ministry to assess and close the gaps with support from its secretary-general Antonio Guterres’ $100 million Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund.
UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and government have partnered the Malawi Institution of Engineers to fast-track the construction of special maternity wards.
UNFPA country representative Young Hong saluted the health workers as a “special workforce in the war on the pandemic”.