SEATTLE, Washington — In countries around the world, millions of women give birth in unsafe and unsanitary conditions every year, often making childbirth a life-risking situation. Maternal health in Zambia is a real problem for women across the country, with as many as 591 out of every 100,000 mothers dying during childbirth. Faced with this issue, the Safe Motherhood Alliance has set out to combat maternal mortality in Zambia and has made strides in its efforts.
Maternal Health in Zambia
Zambia faces a serious maternal mortality problem, with an estimated 300,000 women and 2.7 million babies dying every year due to pregnancy-related issues. Of note, many of Zambia’s maternal mortality issues are considered to be preventable. With a large proportion of the population living in rural areas, these communities often lack access to health institutions or health workers which typically assist with the childbirth process.
Additionally, with more than half of all women giving birth at home, the risk of infection is often high given the absence of sterilization procedures. Oftentimes, women delivering at home also rely on traditional helpers who may implement superstitious and unscientific practices.
Although the majority of women in Zambia give birth within their own homes, those who deliver in hospitals and healthcare facilities face issues as well. All public facilities require women to bring their own birthing materials. As a result, women face a financial obstacle in finding a sanitary place to give birth. If they don’t provide their own materials, Zambian women risk being turned away by hospital staff and forced to give birth on their own.
Zambia’s problems with maternal health are largely preventable. Nearly half of all newborn deaths are related to preventable complications or infections, making the issue one that can be solved in the near future.
The Safe Motherhood Alliance
In 2017, Muzalema Mwanza gave birth to her first child. Living in rural Zambia at the time, Mwanza came face-to-face with the many health issues in her country and the struggles that pregnant women face every year. Soon after, Mwanza founded the Safe Motherhood Alliance, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve maternal healthcare across Zambia.
One of the organization’s primary initiatives has centered around supplying pregnant women with child delivery kits. These packages provide safe and sanitary conditions for home delivery.
The organization also distributes kits to health facilities across the country as well as traditional community helpers so that women can have safe deliveries regardless of where they might be. By providing traditional community helpers with these kits, the Alliance is also able to foster a sense of community engagement and economic empowerment for those in rural areas.
Mwanza’s work has also gained the attention of Zambia’s national government. Through an agreement with the Department of Health, the Safe Motherhood Alliance has distributed kits to 3,500 health clinics across the country.
The organization has also expanded with various other initiatives as well. From holding breastfeeding classes for new mothers to distributing kits that help mothers take care of their newborns, the Alliance has worked to develop new ways to assist mothers and their children.
Mwanza’s programs have helped safely deliver thousands of babies. Infants who were born using the Alliance’s kits were 13 times less likely to develop infections.
Mwanza has high hopes for the Safe Motherhood Alliance. With the goal of preventing infections for 20 million pregnant women across Zambia, the Alliance is set out to make a true impact on the country’s healthcare system. Looking at the innovations and successes that the Safe Motherhood Alliance has had already, the potential for real change seems like all but a certainty.
– Shayaan Subzwari