A closer look at the health facility and the conditions these women are accustomed to during their pregnancy, one would feel sympathy for them and ask how do these women survive in such situations?
Come time for bed you find some women sleeping on bare floors with just a cloth used as blanket and some having to sleep in makeshift rooms as the facility does not have adequate space to use as maternity wing. To make the situation and the experience of being pregnant for most women a nightmare and regrettable, some have to deliver on the floor or the service provider has to use a candle or a flashlight to deliver.
In addition to this some women face verbal abuse or being denied the right to be heard and make a choice for themselves by the health workers, thus facing scorn and discrimination from the service providers due to illiteracy. They are denied access to information regarding sexual and reproductive health and education and access to comprehensive maternal health care.
They also suffer the pain and humiliation of accessing quality health services due to lack of transport and/or medicines and access to contraceptives. Looking at these trends, Malawi is still grappling with valuing the health, rights and lives of women’s health, thus making pregnancy a nightmare for them.
May 28th of each year is set aside as a day to observe and focus our attention and action to improve women’s health. The day calls upon every individual and stakeholder to take necessary steps towards improving health care conditions for the improvement of women’s health.
In order to improve women’s health in the country, MamaYe Malawi has been advocating for quality of health for women by lobbying for more funding towards the health sector by engaging different stakeholders - especially lawmakers.
Many health services in the country are crippling because of lack of funding towards the sector. Just recently, the Minister of Finance presented the 2017/2018 National Budget where the health sector only received 9.9% of the national budget, 6% short of the of meeting the Abuja Declaration of 15% the national budget going towards health.
Lack of funding to the health sector has deprived most women, especially those in the rural areas, to access quality health care due to shortage of medicines, equipment, skilled providers, safe and clean water, and infrastructure.
Another factor that continues to contribute negatively to women’s health is lack of knowledge and empowerment of the women on their rights and responsibilities. Most women suffer silently by choosing to ignore to speak out when their rights are being violated. Some of the rights that are violated are right to privacy, choice and second opinion, informed consent/refusal to treatment, and information and health education.
Once women are able to know and understand what their rights are and take responsibility over their lives and health, Malawi will continue to make positive strides in providing quality maternal health care. According to the Malawi DHS (2015 - 2016) over 91 percent of women received antenatal care from skilled providers and that maternal mortality ratio now stands at 439 per 100,000 live births.
According to the Constitution of Malawi Section (13), responsibility of the state is to provide adequate health care commensurate with the health needs of Malawi Society and International standards of health care.
Hence, as the country today joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Day of Action for Women’s Health, we call upon the government and all stakeholders to ensure that the rights of women are protected by investing in health care.