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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.