Men key to reduction of maternal deaths, says Malawi’s First Lady
By Kusali Kubwalo
Lilongwe, 29 November, 2010 - Malawi’s First Lady, Mrs. Callista Mutharika, says men have a critical role to play in the reduction of maternal deaths in the country. Mrs. Mutharika was speaking on 26th November when she addressed a townhall meeting of United Nations staff in Malawi in her capacity as National Coordinator of Safe Motherhood in Malawi.
“I think men ought to be sensitized on the need to be involved in promoting safe motherhood. Some delays happen because the decision to take a woman to the hospital when labour sets in lies with the man”, she said.
In some areas of Malawi, a woman in labour can only go the hospital if a man in the family, usually a husband or an uncle gives, his consent. In the absence of such consent, the woman is forced to deliver at home where skilled medical personnel may be unavailable. The delays to take an expectant mother to the hospital, coupled with poor availability of transport, long distances to health centers, and lack of facilities at the health center, especially for a woman needing emergency obstetric care, are factors that contribute to Malawi’s high maternal mortality ratio of 807 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Mrs. Mutharika noted that these maternal deaths can be prevented through simple and cost effective measures like family planning, access to health services and accelerating gender equality. She noted that Malawi’s Gender development index of 0.374 is a clear indication that large disparities still exist between men and women. She reiterated her commitment to addressing gender inequality.
“This means speaking up against those socio-cultural practices that continue to demean girls and women, encouraging our traditional leaders to play a positive role, and promoting role modelling for young girls. There is nothing culturally positive about marrying off young girls, subjecting widows to property grabbing, or denying women a voice in key decision-making. These are practices that are holding us back and they need to be changed.”
Mrs. Mutharika commended the UN for the support they have rendered to Malawi, noting that the UN has contributed significantly to Malawi’s progress in reducing poverty, child mortality, HIV and tuberculosis prevalence, and improving access to safe water and sanitation. As a result, Malawi was on track to achieve five of the eight Millennium Development Goals.
Photo essay: Childhood malnutrtion
In recent years, Malawi has achieved tremendous strides in economic development. Despite the progress, pockets of food insecurity remain in some parts of the country. View this photo essay on how Malawi is coming to terms with childhood malnutrition.
[View photo essay]