Some chiefs in Chikwawa and Nsanje have challenged government to go beyond ‘merely talking’ on the promotion of maternal health and safe motherhood in the country.
Group Village Head (GVH) Kanzimbi from Traditional Authority (T/A) Chapananga noted that there is nothing that government is doing to translate its policy on maternal, child health and safe motherhood into reality.
Kanzimbi made the observation at a media clinic the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust organised for communities to voice out their concerns on the state of local governance and development in their areas.
He faulted government for instructing chiefs to formulate and enforce by-laws stopping expectant women from delivering at traditional birth attendants (TBAs) when it is failing to construct [health] facilities to meet the demand.
He feared chiefs’ actions could be deemed unreasonable and excessive where expectant mothers are being fined for delivering in their homes because they have no health centre nearby.
“We’re not resisting change. But government should have matched this with provision of health facilities to serve this purpose. Otherwise, it is unreasonable for chiefs to fine couples who cannot access professional birth attendance because there is no hospital in the area,” he said.
GVH Davide from T/A Makoko in Nsanje cited long distances that expectant women walk to access the nearest health centres as a major hindrance to the promotion of safe motherhood in the area.
Davide revealed that most expectant women in his area deliver while on their way to a health centre located over 20 kilometres away.
“It’s even disheartening that government cannot construct a health facility and maternity waiting home in areas where communities already mobilised bricks and sand [as per the Local Development Fund (LDF) requirement],” he mourned.
Nice civic education officer for Nsanje, KondwaniMalunga, said his organisation is currently focusing on civic empowerment and community mobilisation to realise a systematic engagement of duty-bearers that guide delivery of social services.
“We’ll not rest until we see citizens voicing out their concerns when duty-bearers are failing to fulfil their promises. Remember, the people crying for services today are the same who politicians hunted like wild game in search of their vote in the 2014 tripartite elections,” said Malunga.