Malawi Ambulance
Pictures of an ambulance in Malawi and women matching for safe motherhood

HOUSTON, Texas (MaraviPost):  The Association of Malawians in Houston convened a special meeting on Saturday July 8th, 2016 to discuss the state of maternal deaths in Malawi. The discussion was led by Ms. Daisy Malemia, MBBS; a medical doctor trained in Malawi and now resident in Dallas, Texas.

The group learned and discussed why as citizens Malawians must no longer stand on the sidelines and watch others fight maternal deaths. Malawi ranks as one of the worst in maternal deaths in the world.

Maternal Death Chart
Causes of Maternal Death in Malawi

Maternal death refers to death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy. Malawi’s Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) is at 601 for every 100,000 live births. Consider that this ratio is less than 82 in most parts of the world, less than 10 in Massachusetts, USA and that Malawi’s own Millennium Development Goals (MDG) expected this MMR to be 155: 100,000 by 2015.

The meeting found it shocking that a pregnant woman in Malawi is more likely to die of her pregnancy than in any other country in central-southern African region (World Bank, 2015). This statistic is despite the absence of wars, a relatively long period of peace and calm, and perhaps the highest concentration of NGOs per capita in the region.

Moreover, the forum learned that the leading cause of maternal deaths is severe bleeding (hemorrhage). Bleeding is an expected event with every pregnancy and people attending to a pregnant woman both professional and traditional should be knowledgeable and equipped to manage bleeding.

The group agrees that maternal death is AVOIDABLE and Malawians in Houston will not stand aside as women in Malawi enter reproductive age facing this unimaginable risk of death. The meeting agreed to add their voice to the many efforts in Malawi and around the world fighting maternal deaths.

Below is a summary of the action plans:

1- Adopt a goal that “No woman should die giving birth”; borrowed from a USAID report updated in 2015
2- Increase awareness of maternal deaths among citizens in Malawi and diaspora
3- Mobilize resources in support of maternal health in Malawi; both material and human capital (dedicated nurses, doctors, clinicians etc.)
4- Advocate for a more transparent process that investigates every maternal death.

We understand such structures and processes already exist in the healthcare system in Malawi. The group also listened to presentations by Student from The Malawi Polytechnic currently participating in a biotechnology program at Rice University. The students; Chimwemwe Kunje, Hillary Hilfiger Lodzanyama, Mary Mnewa and Waheed Mia are working on low cost medical innovations that will impact lives in Malawi and many other developing nations.

Their presentations included a low cost training model for testing women for cervical cancer, an optical tocodynamometer to measure and display uterine contractions, and a forearm rotational measurement device used in physical therapy. The group encouraged the young engineers to continue working hard, excel at their specialties and dedicate their careers to develop our motherland Malawi.

The Malawi Ambassador to the USA, Dr. Necton Mhura called into the meeting and encouraged the deliberations, learning and also to specially welcome the students to the USA. He encouraged the students to be dedicated advocates for Malawi and seek to pursue greater achievements.

Finally, the group will soon launch a Facebook page and website to promote awareness of maternal deaths in Malawi. The group is inviting everyone interested in this mission to contact Abiba Tsoka-Matengula on (713) 854 2942 or via the Facebook @ Association of Malawians in Houston.

Next meeting will be announced in next few weeks.

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