Pitala is a very popular village in Mchinji district. It is touted as a model village. For fifteen years, the village recorded zero maternal or newborn death. The last time the village recorded maternal death was in 1998. The village is very clean. Every household has a kitchen, bathroom, pit latrine and a dumping site.
And, the houses in this village carry different messages on its walls. No married woman in this village is allowed to give birth before getting clearance from a Maternal and Newborn Health (MNH) committee. In fact, there is a by- law in Pitala village which forbids families from having more than four kids. And, surprisingly this by law is working very well.
No one has ever broken this by-law since it became into being around 2010. A family is only allowed to have a baby if they meet all set requirements. A Family is required to have enough food and some reasonable amount of money before it is allowed to have a new baby.
This sounds crazy and interesting.
"Anyone breaking this by-law is forced to pay a fine of a goat or equivalent of MK20, 000 (US $30). But no family has ever broken this law. This has made my village to be outstanding on issues of MNH across Malawi for it has not recorded maternal and newborn death for over 15 years now", explained Sub Traditional Authority (STA) Pitala.
There are some interventions the village is using to spread the gospel of maternal and newborn health not only around Pitala village but in other villages in Mchinji district.Some of these interventions are the use of school going children under MamaYe School clubs.
Malawi cannot ignore the toll it is paying by the unnecessary loss of mothers who leave behind orphans and families. Orphaned newborns and infants as we know are at a greater risk of morbidity and mortality following the loss of their primary care provider. This is perhaps why school going girls and boys under MamaYe clubs are playing their role in reducing maternal and newborn deaths.
Set up in 2013 MamaYe clubs such as Pitala MamaYe School Club share evidence and information with mothers and fellow pupils and together they advocate for better quality care for improved survival of mothers and babies.
"We work with MamaYe staff at the central office in Lilongwe. They give us different materials on maternal and newborn health. These materials carry different messages. And then, we compose songs, poems or even plays using these messages which are then disseminated to people around Pitala and other surrounding areas", said Clement Mwakhwawa, patron for Pitala MamaYe School Club.
Pitala village is safe. No maternal and newborn death has occurred for over 15 years now. But the story is different in other surrounding villages. Kayembe village in Traditional Authority Dambe is one such village where maternal and newborn deaths were so rampant.
Mwakhwawa said, "Just imagine, between January and August 2015 alone, the village lost about 8 mothers and 11 babies. Seeing that many mothers and babies were dying in Kayembe we thought we needed to do something about it. In September 2015 we went there as a club and had an open day where we displayed different activities on maternal and newborn health. Many people got the messages and we had also established a working relationship with Tchelu Children’s Media".
Tchelu Chidren’s Media is a local organization based in Kayembe village working towards addressing maternal and newborn challenges in the area.
The visit to Kayembe village in Traditional Authority Dambe by Pitala MamaYe School Club had paid dividend. Since September 2015 the village has registered no maternal and newborn deaths. The patron said,
We want to reach out to as many villages as possible. We are hearing many girls are dropping out of school in senior Chief Mkanda area. We are going there soon. We want to stop early marriages. We want girls to remain in school so as to avoid maternal deaths.