The Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood (PIMHSM) faces uncertain future due to limited donor financing, something that has forced the initiative to scale down on operations and cut the number of jobs, Nation on Sunday has learnt.
According to PIMHSM executive summary on the situation, which we have sourced, the initiative is not enjoying the donors’ support it had at its zenith as out of five major donors who once guaranteed financial sustainability of the PIMHSM—a signature initiative of former president Joyce Banda aimed at ending deaths of mothers and children while giving birth—only the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has remained.
The development has forced the initiative to sound an SOS to government—just a year after former president Joyce Banda who launched and championed the initiative throughout her short-lived presidency—left office.
But the initiative’s executive director, Dr. Chimwemwe Chipungu, has allayed fears that the perceived donor fatigue will negatively affect the initiative, arguing that it is high time Malawi weaned itself of donor dependency.
The PIMHSM executive summary on the situation, however, states that apart from government annual other recurrent transaction (ORT) of K25 million, partnerships and networking activities fetched billions of kwacha from within and outside the country.
According to the document, at the initiative’s prime, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pumped in $2 million (about K1.1 billion) in four years for chiefs mobilisation and construction of two waiting homes; Ann Gloag Foundation contributed $210 000 (about K117 million ) for 70 scholarships in 2013-2014 and $330 000 (about K184 million) for 2014 was withheld for 100 scholarships; United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provided $30 000 (about K16.8 million) for chiefs training and mobilisation for three years respectively.
National Aids Commission (NAC) provided K70 million—K50 million for renovating 10 kitchens and wash areas and K20 million for training of chiefs; Tasha and Amor Foundation donated medical equipment and $150 000 (about K84 million) for constructing two waiting homes and Turkish International Corporation Agency (Tika) provided $130 000 (about K72 million) for one waiting home and medical equipment.
Among others, banks provided K98 million [FMB, MSB and Ecobank] for construction of maternity waiting homes and training community midwifery students) but all this support has ceased.
While ORT government budget of K25 million per year is inadequate, according to the initiative, costs of administration are soaring.
The initiative has one vehicle, which is used by its executive director, with the rest of the fleet belonging to specific projects which are mostly being phased out as well.
The report says the Ann Gloag Foundation, which funded training scholarships and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have reduced staff and “are controlling their community mobilisation funds and not providing any other scholarships for recruitment of CMAs [community midwives assistants].”
Consequently, the report notes frustration of chiefs’ committee which once were the champions of efforts to ensure women deliver at hospitals to reduce maternal complications.
“Local partners [are] not motivated to support the initiative because of lack of political will and because it is not one of the priorities of the government,” says the report.
It adds: “Of all the donors and partners that used to support the initiative, only Bill and Melinda Gates support through University of North Carolina (UNC) has been maintained although three individuals that were employed to support the initiative have been relieved of their duties although their contracts were supposed to run up to 2017. These include an accountant, an IT officer and an administrative officer.”
Hoping for the better
Chipungu, in an interview, said although it is normal for projects and their support to fizzle out, local investors can successfully support the initiative.
“Projects or donations have time factor, so we will lose some, but also get some. We should appreciate their continued efforts, but again it is high time we came out of donor dependency. We have approached local investors who are also of sound economic base to help us more on community midwife assistants training and mobilisation of community-based opinion leaders,” said Chipungu.
He added: “There is enough political drive to see the initiative succeed as demonstrated by politicians supporting us on safe motherhood issues.” n