ACCOUNTABILITY IS KEY TO BETTER HEALTH SERVICES

White Ribbon Alliance Citizen Journalist Enock Mnyenyembe reports from Malawi

Malawians have been identifying The biggest problems for pregnant women mothers seeking health care in Mzimba North. These include a lack of accountability, a chronic shortage of trained health personnel, together with a serious lack of resources.

“Expectant mothers are being assisted by unskilled health personnel due to shortage of staff” said Jenifer Mkandawire, Executive Director of the Foundation for Children Rights, a Malawian NGO which is part of the White Ribbon Alliance Malawi.

“These shortages affect quality of care, as health workers suffer so much from fatigue. The attitude of some health workers also makes expectant women fear to deliver at the hospital, and this in turn increases the risks of maternal mortality and morbidity. We urgently need the government to train more health personnel to improve maternal health service delivery.”

Mkandawire was speaking at a research dissemination workshop conducted in partnership with the University of Livingstonia and  the University of Amsterdam on the quality of maternal health care in Mzimba North: 

How can things be improved? Mkandawire’s organisation has targeted Health Care Advisory Committee members from all twenty four health centres in the Region, so that they engage  with citizens and become accountable in terms of maternal health services delivery.

“Some Health Care Advisory Committees are active and others are not.  We want to make them active so that they participate in raising the voices of women who are demanding better maternal health care.”

Mkandawire urges Health Care Advisory Committee to create a platform whereby expectant women may voice their concerns.  These committees should enable duty bearers in the health system to meet with the citizens, to talk about maternal health in hospitals.

One Health Care Advisory Committee member who was at the event, John Chiumia , said “we have a number of challenges in our health centres. We lack water, electricity and beds.”

But above all there is a lack of accountability said Chiumia. “Officials are not accountable to the citizens, and this badly affects the quality of health care. Furthermore, delay by the Ministry in training Healthcare Advisory Committee members on their roles and responsibilities leaves a serious gap.”

Increasingly, there is global and national recognition that for health services to provide the quality care which people deserve, citizens must be consulted and included in government policy making and implementation. As the global movement of Citizens Hearings for rights in reproductive health says, ‘there should be nothing about us without us!”