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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid