Nation Publications Limited’s (NPL) safe motherhood initiative, dubbed Mother’s Fun Run, returned this year after a one-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, raising about K34 million in support of health facilities in Mulanje and Chitipa districts.
During the main event held at Mulanje District Council grounds yesterday to hand over medical supplies and equipment to Mulanje District Health Office (DHO), most speeches painted a depressing picture of the situation facing the district’s health facilities.
Speakers, who included Senior Chief Mabuka, Mulanje District Council chairperson Richard Chikhwakhwa and Mulanje District director of health and social services Alinafe Kalanga, revealed a set of miseries facing the district’s health sector, such as lack of medical supplies and equipment.
According to Kalanga, Mulanje District Hospital, which is the main hospital, treats at least 35 000 expectant women and records about 24 maternal deaths annually due to inadequate medical equipment.
She said: “We deliver around 50 mothers in a day but maternal deaths are inevitable due to lack of equipment in our health facilities. This donation is, therefore, a relief to the sad situation for health facilities in the districts.”
In his remarks, NPL deputy chief executive officer Alfred Ntonga pledged continued support to health facilities in the country.
He said: “ As I stand here, we have collectively put together K34 million. This is a start, not an end of the Mulanje and Chitipa Mother’s Fun Run initiative.
“Each one of us can also bring more of the proverbial water through the Mother’s Fun Run platform to the millions of mothers, girls and children, whose survival at this critical time in their lives depends on the equipment, the services and the time we give.”
He observed that the challenges women go through are complex, but avoidable if everyone commits to creating an enabling environment, increasing budget allocations to health, particularly safe motherhood, and ensuring that men are aware of the need to support women during pregnancy.
Ntonga then called on organisations and institutions to help raise funds for Mulanje and Chitipa health facilities by joining the empathy belly challenge for male executives, and be champions of safe motherhood.
The empathy belly challenge, introduced by NPL as part of its fundraising efforts for the two districts, is a strap-on pregnancy simulator which aims to draw empathy for what mothers go through during pregnancy.
Said Ntonga: “We want to raise awareness on the the role of men in maternal and neonatal health outcomes, and enhance discussions on men as fathers, and their roles in dismantling harmful social norms and beliefs that put pregnant women at risk.”
Guest of honour at the event, Press Trust trustee Linda Phiri said it is disheartening that both Mulanje and Chitipa districts, who are beneficiary districts for this year’s Mother’s Fun Run initiative, keep registering alarming maternal and neonatal deaths.
She said the statistics demand full participation from various partners and people of goodwill to help ease the challenges.
Said Phiri: “As partners of this initiative, we draw from the tenacity and dedication demonstrated by NPL to join hands in abetting the challenges faced in the safe motherhood sector.
“We, therefore, remain resolute in ensuring that no woman loses her precious life while attempting to bring another life on earth.”
Mulanje District has an estimated population of 684 107, and 23 health facilities.
The district hospital continues to record a rising neonatal mortality rate at 15.2 for every 1 000 live births.
On the other hand, Chitipa District Hospital has a total population of 240 954 and 12 health facilities. Both the maternal mortality and neonatal mortality rates in the district remain high at 156 per 100 000 births and 14 per 1 000 live births, respectively.
Medical equipment presented to Mulanje District Hospital and its 23 health centres under the Mulunje DHO included oxygen concentrators, digital baby weighing machines, delivery beds, BP machines, stethoscopes, wheelchairs and mattresses.
Partners who supported the initiative this year included Press Trust, Dossani Trust, National Bank of Malawi, Medical Aid Society of Malawi, Alliance One, Water Aid, UNFPA, Mame Car Hire, Kelfoods, Rab Processors Limited, Standard Bank, Mikoma Beach Lodge, CBR Tours, Moyo, Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust, Joggers on the Move, First Choice Milk and Fun Walk Mothers.