Africare Zambia recently completed and opened its first six Maternity Waiting Homes. Lively community events were open to the community at each site. Local leaders from the area, including government officials, were in attendance. Three homes are in Mansa District, Luapula Province located at Mano, Fimpulu and Lubende Rural Health Centers and three are located in Lundazi District, Eastern Province: Nyangwe, Nkhanga and Mwase Lundazi Rural Health Centers. Jessy Mtenje, Lundazi District Coordinator for the project states, “These homes are set up to be community managed entrepreneurial enterprises with a variety of income generating activities as mechanisms for the homes to be financially sustainable, adequately maintained and also a sources of pride for women in the region”.
Click here to watch a time-lapse video of the one of the homes in Lundazi. This effort falls within the larger Maternity Homes Alliance efforts in Zambia that includes additional districts.
In rural Zambia, health facilities are sparse, roads are unpaved and transportation is unreliable. Women often have to travel long distances to reach the nearest health facility, making it difficult for them to get the care they need during pregnancy, childbirth and immediately postpartum. In fact, in Zambia, distance challenges are considered a leading contributor to the country’s high maternal mortality ratio of 224 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.
Maternity waiting homes, residences near health facilities where pregnant women can stay until they go into labor and immediately after childbirth, can help overcome these distance challenges by enabling women to reside closer to health facilities as they approach the end of their pregnancies.
The government of Zambia has included maternity waiting homes in the country’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality. The goal is to make these homes sustainable by empowering local communities to both effectively manage them and generate income to support their operations through creative entrepreneurial activities, therefore ensuring the homes and the services they provide are available for the long term.
Eden Ahmed Mdluli, Senior Technical Specialist, who supports the project from Africare headquarters in Washington, DC, says “Africare is energized to work within the alliance and collectively achieve more for vulnerable communities in Zambia and elsewhere”.
MSD, through MSD for Mothers, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The ELMA Foundation are supporting the Maternity Homes Alliance in Zambia to build and strengthen 24 maternity waiting homes throughout the country – all of which will be located near high-functioning health facilities equipped to provide quality care and manage life-threatening emergencies that can arise during pregnancy or childbirth. Africare, in collaboration with the University of Michigan, and Boston University, in collaboration with the Zambia Center for Applied Health Research and Development, are leading the program, supporting local communities to manage the homes.
The three-year project focuses on the districts of Mansa, Chembe, Lundazi, Kalomo, Choma, and Nyimba, and it builds on the existing efforts of each organization to lower maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa – where more than half of all maternal deaths occur. The project also represents part of MSD for Mothers’ commitment to Saving Mothers, Giving Life, a public-private partnership led by the U.S. Government to reduce maternal deaths in the region.
The program is creating entrepreneurial models of these homes to test a variety of income generating activities to promote their long-term financial sustainability. The program will include an in-depth evaluation to help the maternal health field determine whether maternity waiting homes can be both an effective and sustainable solution to help women overcome distance barriers to quality care.