By Felix Mangani, WRASM Citizen Journalist/Midwife
Pregnancy and childbirth are a special times in women lives where they need the necessary medical care to help them deliver a healthy baby. With good quality care, expectant mothers are assured of good maternal outcomes.
In many Malawian government health facilities pregnant mothers should be able to access antenatal care services however, they are not guaranteed the kind of good quality care that would put their mind at rest about being healthy pregnancy as well as safe delivery.
Dorothy Mwale, a pregnant mother who attends antenatal classes at Chinkhwiri Health Center in Dowa is one such mother, she is frustrated about government’s lack of prioritization of the services offered to expectant mothers. Mwale is upset that while she has diligently attended antenatal classes, this is her third visit and once again, she is going back home without the mandatory Sulphadoxine Pyrimethamine and Ferous sulphate iron tablets that she is supposed to receive. " I travel long distances to get antenatal services but I always find that there are no drugs in the healthy facility, said Mwale.
Scarcity of basic drugs affects maternal healthy outcomes. For example, most pregnant mothers suffer from anemia and are usually given iron tablets to improve on their hemoglobin. Women with hemoglobin levels below 13 g/dl usually suffer from exhaustion, nausea and might give birth to low-birth weight babies. These women are also prone to bleeding to death in case they lose a lot of blood in the process of childbirth, a common complication during birth.
The Safe Motherhood Coordinator for Dowa, Blessings Kumwenda expressed concern that there has been a shortage of drugs. "The government health facilities rely on Central Medical Stores Trust which was contracted by government to supply drugs. We heavily depend on them to deliver drugs in all government health facilities, and we at times purchase supplement drugs using funds that government gives us, said Kumwenda". However, the sole supplier of drugs to government health facilities, Central Medical Stores, were not available for comment on the issue.
Kumwenda explained that shortage of drugs affects implementation of Focused Antenatal Care (FANC) which refers to good quality care that is tailored to every woman as an individual. It emphasizes the woman's overall health in preparation for childbirth and readiness and complications during her term of pregnancy with the aim of reducing maternal morbidity and mortality caused by complications that may arise during pregnancy or during birth like hemorrhage and malaria among others.
White Ribbon Alliance for Safemotherhood Malawi, is championing the quality of care initiative. However to realize this, it is the duty of the government to always avail drugs in all health facilities so that all women receive the care that is due to them.