15 February 2017

North Africa: Malawi Commits to Halve Maternal and Neonatal Deaths Over Next Five Years

Lilongwe — Malawi has joined eight other African countries in Africa and South East Asia to make a commitment to reduce by half maternal and new-born death as well as still-born births in the next five years.

The Governments of Malawi and eight other countries from Africa and South East Asia have committed to halve maternal, new-born and stillborn births. The commitment came at a time when the nine countries launched the Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, New-born and Child Health.

Through the Network, the governments of Bangladesh, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda have committed to putting in place actions to improve the quality of care that pregnant women and new-borns receive in health facilities.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisations (WHO) in collaboration with the government of Malawi is seeking to broaden focus on intervention coverage to include quality and equity.

This will be done by ensuring that those who currently experience barriers in accessing the care are reached as well as providing dignity by ensuring that quality health services are delivered respecting the rights of the people seeking care.

"The vision of the network and its partners is for every pregnant woman, new-born and child to receive good quality care, especially in health care facilities," says Minister of Health Dr. Peter Kumpalume, MP, highlighting government's commitment to make a real difference to women and children across the country.

UNICEF Country Representative for Malawi Johannes Wedenig said the time is now for the Government of Malawi and its development partners to ensure actions are coupled with investments in infrastructure, training and capacity building to ensure that all pregnant women and new born receive the best health services.

"We believe that through collaborated efforts we can collectively reduce the number of mothers and new born babies who die during birth or immediately after birth," Wedenig said.

Malawi has the highest premature birth rate in the world, with 18 percent of all babies being born too early and 13 percent with low birth weight.

According to the recent Demographic Health Survey, child mortality has gone down from 234 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1992 to 64 in 2015/16.

WHO Representative in Malawi Dr Eugene Nyarko however noted that as under-five child death rates were falling, new-born deaths have increased as a share of overall child mortality.

Apart from increasing coverage to vulnerable groups, the network on Quality of Care on Maternal, New-born and Child Health aims at accelerating and sustaining implementation of quality-of-care improvement packages for mothers, new-borns and children as well as facilitating knowledge sharing and generation of evidence on quality planning.

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