MALAWI— Alliance One Tobacco has officially handed over the newly constructed 40-bed maternity and postnatal care ward to the management of the Area 25 Health Center to help the area improve its maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) quality of care.

The new Area 25 Health Centre maternity and post-natal care ward cost the U.S.-based tobacco manufacturer, US$0.887 million.

The health center acknowledged that the new Ward would greatly improve the delivery of postnatal and antenatal services at the public health facility.

Lilongwe District Council Director of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Wilson Ching’ani commended Alliance One Tobacco for constructing this magnificent high-risk maternity ward here as it will now allow this hospital to offer secondary health care services.

According to Ching’ani, Area 25 Health Center is one of the public clinics in Lilongwe city which refers many antenatal and postnatal related cases to Bwaila and Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH).

Ching’ani noted that this was due to inadequate space and capacity at its maternity section hence, construction of the structure will ease the burden of the two major hospitals.

“The ward will offer antenatal and postnatal services without necessarily sending such cases to KCH and Bwaila Hospital hence deflating the burden of the two major medical facilities,” said Ching’ani.

Ching’ani added that the newly constructed Ward will now enable the health facility to handle some complicated maternity cases thereby reducing the distance which pregnant women from locations such as Area 25, 49, 51, and Mgona used to travel just to seek similar services at Bwaila and KCH.

“We are calling this a high-risk ward as it will carter both high-risk antenatal and postnatal patients who are currently referred to Kamuzu Central Hospital, so once we start operating, then most pregnant women based on this side of the city will no longer be burdened to travel a long distance to KCH as they are currently doing,” explained Ching’ani.

In her remarks, Alliance One Tobacco Malawi Corporate Affairs Manager Fran Malila said her company thought it wise to construct the 40-bedroom structure as one way of fulfilling its Corporate Social Responsibly (CSR) program in the country.

According to Malila, the majority of her company’s employees together with their families seek medical services at Area 25 Health Center.

Malila added that most of their employees stay in locations that are near the public medical facility hence the need to assist it so that it can continue offering reliable medical services.

“As a company, we have managed to implement a few projects here, the main reason being that we are based in this community,” said Malila.

According to Malila, Alliance One Tobacco has been assisting the Kanengo-based health facility since 2015 where among others it also managed to construct a guardian shelter, drilled a borehole as well as refurbished a labor ward which in total cost the company about US$123,233.

She however urged the management of the health center to take good care of the structure so that it can achieve its intended goal of improving service delivery for both antenatal and postnatal patients.

Apart from the health sector, Alliance One Tobacco’s CSR programs also focus on community-based sustainability initiatives such as environmental conservation management, social welfare, water and sanitation, and education among others.

Malawi maternal and newborn targets

The World Health Organisation notes that as under-five mortality rates have declined overall, the proportion of deaths occurring in newborns has become higher.

Moreover, WHO observes that Malawi’s overall maternal mortality ratio decreased from 439 to 381 per 100 000 live births between 2017 and 2020.

For instance, the Thyolo district hospital, a secondary-level facility, was particularly successful, in managing to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality by more than 50% between 2017 and 2022.

This phenomenon has been attributed to poor quality of care (QoC) resulting from inadequate infrastructure, untrained health workers, and limited medical practitioners and supplies.

In response, the Ministry of Health (MoH), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, implemented a maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) QoC initiative.

It aimed to empower health workers to monitor and address the underlying causes of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality.

Through the initiative, quality improvement (QI) interventions have been implemented in 280 health facilities.

Studies from around the world have shown that women who receive antenatal care, delivery care, and postnatal care from skilled healthcare personnel have better pregnancy outcomes resulting in a reduction in both neonatal and maternal mortality rates.

The continuum of care for reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health, involves the integrated delivery of healthcare for both mothers and children from pre-pregnancy all the way through to childhood.

Malawi needs to increase the number of vital antenatal care (ANC) units, postnatal care visits (PNC), and delivery healthcare facilities which can reduce the number of mother and baby deaths by 75% of which are preventable with the early identification of any birthing complications.

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