September 2011: Safe Motherhood Week promotes integration of malaria, PMTCT and family planning into safe motherhood programme
Safe Motherhood Week, 29 August – 5 September 2011
Zambia celebrated its second annual Safe Motherhood Week this year from August 29 to September 5. In thirty-five (35) priority districts in the country activities were conducted designed to raise awareness on maternal health and promote increased utilization of health services. It is estimated that 1,137,359 women aged 15-49 years were reached with messages and services.
Zambia begun to celebrate Safe Motherhood Week in 2010 as a concrete manifestation of its commitment to achieving MDG5 and specifically to operationalize the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality (CARMMA) in Africa. In 2010 the Ministry of Health and its partners launched safe motherhood week in 24 initial districts in the country.
This year, the Ministry of Health together with its partners, including UNICEF, conducted a vigorous campaign to ensure a successful Safe Motherhood Week in 35 priority districts reinforcing already existing strategies for preventing maternal deaths in Zambia. The goal is to reduce the number of women dying from preventable complications during childbirth and improve survival among children under five years of age.
In Zambia, with a maternal mortality ratio of 591 per 100, 000 live births, an estimated 8 women die every day due to pregnancy and delivery-related complications. In fact the Newborn Mortality Rate (NMR) is equally still too high at 34 per 1000 live births. In this year’s commemoration, MoH was supported by several partners including UNICEF, Zambia Integrated Systems Strengthening Program (ZISSP), Corridors of Hope III (CoH III), Zambia Centre for Communication Program (ZCCP), Communication Support for Health (CSH)), UNFPA and other private organizations. During the week, the Government and partners worked to promote access to services towards safer pregnancy and delivery and reduce maternal mortality in the country. In its awareness campaign the country focused on reducing the known 3 delays that continue to contribute to these preventable maternal deaths:
Services provided in the health facilities included focused antenatal care, family planning, adolescent health, HIV/AIDS/STIs counseling and testing, under-one immunization, Vitamin A, folic acid, ferrous sulfate supplementation, ITNs distribution and health promotion activities.
Messages on the seven key family practices were disseminated by community health workers, health promotion officers and local media practitioners including: early antenatal visits, essential new born care, use of ITNs, breast feeding, immunization, hand washing and birth preparedness.
In the districts where the safe motherhood week was conducted, the health workers were pleased with the package of activities supported during the week. “I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to our government through the Ministry of Health and to UNICEF, UNFPA, ZCCP, CSH, ZISSP, CoH III and other stakeholders, for the support rendered to ensure the successful conduct of the National Safe Motherhood Week in our district” said Dr. Mike Chisha, District Medical Officer for Nakonde. The medical officer further informed that in Nakonde majority of women die from severe bleeding, infections, eclampsia, obstructed labor and the consequences of unsafe abortion.
The District Health Offices were encouraged to strengthen a three-pronged strategy to safe motherhood to accomplish their goals: a) all women to have access to contraception to avoid unintended pregnancies; b) all pregnant women to have access to skilled care at the time of birth; c) all those with complications to have timely access to quality emergency obstetric care.
In her speech Her Royal Highness Chieftainess Nawaitwika of Nakonde said, “… before we talk of protecting a woman during labor, we need to think of family planning … I see too many children with no support in the kingdom. I will work with the Government heads of departments and all the stakeholders in my area to make sure resources are set aside to support family planning and many other safe motherhood activities.”
The permanent secretary for Northern Province, Mr. Lightwell Chongo, reiterated the Government’s support to promote safe motherhood in Zambia. He further said, “… every minute the world loses at least one woman due to pregnancy & childbirth complications. This time we want to say no to the continued loss of lives of our women in the process of giving life. Maternal deaths could be prevented if women had access to quality family planning services and skilled care during pregnancy through to childbirth.”
UNICEF in Zambia is working with the Ministry of Health in the development of policies and implementation of programmes for the survival of mothers, newborns and children under-five. To promote a more equitable access to health services the country office is supporting the strengthening of routine services and the conduct of integrated outreach activities to reach the under-served and hard-to-reach mothers and children. UNICEF Zambia is working towards the promotion and application of key family practices and the improvement of health-seeking behavior through partnerships with community groups such as the Safe Motherhood Action Groups.