News / Africa

Better Maternal Care Reduces Newborn, Infant Mortality in Malalwi

Malawian women walk past empty grain silos in the capital Lilongwe, (File photo).
Malawian women walk past empty grain silos in the capital Lilongwe, (File photo).
Jessica Berman
A combination of strategies aimed at improving the quality of care for mothers in rural Malawi has dramatically reduced newborn mortality. Experts say it could be a model for similar programs in other countries with poor pre- and post-natal care.

The five-year program looked at the care of women and their newborns in the weeks immediately preceding and following birth in Malawi, a sub-Saharan country with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.  

The study was carried out in three rural communities, with a combined population of 2 million people. Investigators wanted to find out which of two interventions was more effective in reducing newborn and infant mortality - improving health care quality at birthing facilities or community involvement in helping the mother get the professional care she needed.

In the end, Tim Colbourn, a population expert at University College London, says employing the two interventions together was more effective than either strategy alone in saving newborn lives during the first month of life.

Colbourn, who analyzed the data, says investigators found a 30 percent reduction in neonatal mortality by the time the program was fully implemented, saving at least 1,000 newborn lives.

Speaking via Skype, Colbourn pointed to the importance of training workers at health clinics in the technique known as "kangaroo care."  In Western countries, he says, distressed newborns would be put in a climate-controlled incubator under the constant watch of medical personnel.

"But that's just simply not affordable and possible in some of these health facilities in Malawi.  So, instead, the mother takes the baby and places the baby on her chest and rocks the baby and keeps the baby warm constantly, which really helps improve the baby's survival," said Colbourn.

On the community care side, residents were taught to recognize when distressed mothers-to-be needed emergency medical care. Someone could then rush her to a clinic or health care facility in a “bicycle ambulance,” pedal carts that pull a padded wagon that allows pregnant women to rest in a reclining position, before she develops potentially lethal complications.

Colbourn says the World Health Organization and other NGOs are evaluating the Maikanda approach, which means “mother baby” in the native Chichawa language, in other low income countries.

“There’s already been a lot of work done on that in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, and we’ve analyzed the results from other trials my colleagues have been involved in.  And that’s been found to reduce neonatal and maternal mortality to quite a large extent," he said.

However, the Malawi trial did not show a significant reduction in maternal mortality.

The study was funded and carried out by the non-governmental Health Foundation with support by partners in the U.S. and Britain.

Researchers hope efforts like Maikanda will help other countries achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid