A local non-governmental organisation(NGO) implementing Maternal and Child Health(MCH) project in the country has said long distance to maternal health services continue to hamper safe motherhood initiatives.
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) officer for Foundation for Community Support Services (Focus), Vincent Ngwira shared the findings from the first phase of their Increasing Citizen’s Demand for Accountability and Transparency (Icidant) project to journalists attending an orientation workshop on MCH on Wednesday in Balaka district.
He said: “Women continue to walk long distances to access maternal child health services and this makes them shy away from such services most times though we [focus] impart them with knowledge on the importance of attending such services.
“This project will advocate and lobby government in particular to be forthcoming to address such challenges by among others changing policies and adhering to agreements the country ratified such as the Abuja declaration. Government’s plans on paper must begin to translate to action on the ground, safe motherhood without related facilities close is hard to attain.”
The Abuja declaration says governments must commit 15 percent of their budgetary allocation to health.
Inadequate funding from government causes efforts by projects such as Icidant to make limited impacts than anticipated.
Ideally Icidant is designed to sensitise citizens to patronise MCH-related services and demand availability of such from duty bearers where services are not being provided. On the other hand, the supply side is required to be responsive to needs raised by community members through various channels such as facility level and district level interface meetings among others.
District Medical Officer (DMO) Leonard Chafewa said Balaka district health office (DHO) is making positive strides in addressing issues from community members by strengthening local health governance structures such as health facility advisory committees (HFACs) and ensuring the office of the ombudsman is functional to provide opportunity for dialogue between the health worker and the communities.
Chafewa said in the past a common challenges women faced when trying to access maternal and child health services besides non-availability of services within a short distance was to do with altitude of health workers.
He said while responding to an issues raised by one participant: “Much of what women complained about was to do with altitudes of nurses and other health workers but with the help of HFACs and the office of the ombudsman such issues are now gone.”
The DMO further said the issues of infrastructure for maternity wings in other health centres that do not have one is indeed crucial but was quick to mention that such an issues cannot be addressed within a short period.
The 600,000 British pounds project, funded by Scottish government through Christian Aid is being implemented in all Traditional Authorities in Balaka district.