27/06/2013 : Women and Children First and partners announce 1,000 newborn lives saved

Women and Children First is proud to announce the publication of the results from a five year research programme which mobilised communities to address important maternal and newborn health issues.  The results, published in International Health on 26 June show that perinatal mortality reduced by 16%.  When coupled with improvements in quality of care in health facilities, the results are an impressive 22% reduction in newborn mortality.

Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Africa and a high rate of neonatal mortality. Although there is growing evidence of a trend towards a lower maternal mortality rate, the country is unlikely to meet its ambitious target to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for a reduction in maternal mortality by 2015.

While Malawi may meet its target for reductions in child mortality, neonatal mortality lags behind.

The MaiKhanda programme

In 2006, we launched a five year programme with a consortium of international experts. MaiKhanda – which means ‘mother and baby’ in Chichewa – aimed to reduce by 30% the number of maternal and neonatal deaths in the Lilongwe, Kasungu and Salima districts of Malawi, working within the strategy already established by the Malawi Ministry of Health’s roadmap for maternal health.

The four approaches tested by the research were:

  • community mobilisation only
  • healthcare facility improvements only
  • a combination of community mobilisation and healthcare facility improvements
  • no intervention (the control group).

The programme was innovative in its ambition to combine two large-scale interventions:

  • A community mobilisation intervention, using a participatory action group cycle focused on women’s groups that had shown some promising evidence of effectiveness from international studies.
  • A quality improvement intervention, working first in nine hospitals that provide comprehensive emergency obstetric care, and later in 29 health centres that provide some elements of basic emergency obstetric care.

Key partners

The donor, The Health Foundation, invited three organisations to form a consortium to design and deliver the programme, working in partnership with University College London, which would deliver an independent evaluation:

  • the Institute for Healthcare Improvement
  • Women and Children First (UK)
  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, with administrative support from Liverpool Associates in Tropical Health

Over 1,000 newborn lives saved

As MaiKhanda moves into its next phase, the independent evaluation estimates that over 1,000 newborn lives have been saved so far. 

Scaling the heights of Kilimanjaro to save mums and babies

Women's Group in Malawi

Our wonderful fundraiser Nicola Darling is climbing the highest peak in Africa to help the women of that continent give birth to healthy babies. She sets off on 15 January and will take 11 days to complete her challenge.

Violet Ntebe, who is being supported by our Malawi project during her forth pregnancy describes being pregnant as being like “having one foot in the grave.” She has a point. Each Malawi woman, in her life, has a one in 26 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth - most of which are entirely preventable.

Nicola was motivated to fundraise to help us stop this terrible situation when she became a mother herself.  She says: “I realised that had my children been born elsewhere, it is unlikely that they or I would have survived. In fact, in my antenatal group alone, five out of six of us women, and most of our children, would not have survived the birth or immediate postnatal period, which is a very sobering thought.”

However, thanks to our work in Africa it’s more than a year since the last newborn baby died in Kanyemba village in Ntcheu district of Malawi, where Violet lives. The volunteers’ programme there has kept the mums in the villages of Kanyemba and Kauwa and their babies safe. Our project means women get medical care and access to medical facilities, if needed, throughout the time they are pregnant and expert information about keeping their young babies safe and well once they are born. They also receive advice on the nutrition they and their babies need, while their babies’ growth is regularly monitored after they are born.

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