Ombudsman Martha Chizuma Mwangonde and TNM managing executive Phyllis Manguluti on Friday night took on the Sleepover Challenge in aid of mothers and babies of Ntchisi.
The Sleepover Challenge is an initiative of Nation Publications Limited’s Mothers’ Fun Run, in which high-profile women raise money by spending the night at remote health centres while experiencing what pregnant women go through in the country’s health facilities.
Accompanied by some friends, the Ombudsman opted for Kangolwa Health Centre, which is over 45 kilometres away from the district hospital.
With a catchment population of 18 730, the health centre registers 80 to 90 deliveries a month, according to the district health officer Dr Zondwayo Ng’oma.
Of the 12 health facilities in Ntchisi, Kangolwa is the furthest.
At the health centre, Mwangonde found that the hospital did not have essential medicines such as Panado and the prenatal ward was heavily congested.
There were about 32 women waiting to deliver, against 10 beds. Many pregnant women were sleeping on the floor.
“We went to Kangolwa with a clear mission. We brought the little we could afford. We danced chimtali. We jumped and walked in dark corridors with them, to induce labour. We rubbed painful backs. We spoke about the importance of population control, education and voting. We tried,” said Mwangonde.
Manguluti, accompanied by six TNM staff members from across the country, took on the challenge at Kamsonga Health Centre, 25 kilometres from the district hospital.
With no readily available ambulance, in case of complications, women have to fork out as much as K25 000 to hire a car or K7 000 for a motorbike to take them to the district hospital.
The situation at Kamsonga is worsened by the breakdown of the solar water pump. Expectant women fetch water from a community borehole, where they wait for up to 30 minutes to fill a 20-litre pail.
Chairperson for the waiting wing, Ketrina Lipo, bemoaned that women have to fight for water with the rest of the community.
While the DHO estimates that there will be 1 124 pregnancies a year in the Kamsonga Health Centre catchement area, Manguluti and her team found that there was shortage of iron tablets to prevent anaemia.
“There referral system is not good enough. Patients have to wait for up to 12 hours to be taken to the district hospital. We are forced to ask the women to find their own means of transport,” said medical assistant Bittings Nkhata.
Manguluti said there was so much needed to improve the facilities.
“The experience has been so overwhelming. We have so much work to improve these facilities. Among all other things required, Kamsonga has no running water; hence all patients have to fend for themselves, which is a huge challenge and poses high risks of infections,” she said.
Another team of six from TNM took part in the Sleepover Challenge at Khuwi Health Centre, 11 kilometres from the district hospital, but easy to reach.
However, its proximity to the main road and hospital for easy referrals does not spare it other challenges.
The health centre has an electric steriliser which is currently not working and there was no gas to sterilise equipment.
The DHO estimates that there will be 1 646 pregnancies a year while the health centre registers about 70 deliveries a month.
To celebrate with the women, Mwangonde and the staff from TNM donated various items such as soap, basins and sugar.
This year, NPL and its partners identified Ntchisi district hospital as the beneficiary of this year’s Mothers’ Fun Run, which will be held in October.