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Catholic health project reduces maternal mortality rate in Zambia

Zambian mother and child

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An unidentified African baby holds on to his mother and looks at the camera circa 2017 in Liliachi, Zambia.

J-P Mauro - published on 01/19/24

A 2020 health initiative by Catholic Relief Services has worked to reduce maternal mortality by 50% and stillbirths by 30%, and raised the rate of antenatal care.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international humanitarian agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and local branch of Caritas, has reported great success to come from their work in Zambia. Since 2020, CRS has run a campaign called “Mayi na Mwana,” meaning “Mother and Child” in the Chewa language, which has worked to reduce maternal mortality rates in three district hospitals and 26 health centers in Zambia

The program, led by CRS project leader Moses Chirwa, worked with communities, healthcare workers, the government, and the Church to address three factors that greatly contribute to maternal mortality in Zambia. The first factor was the problem of many pregnant women delaying the decision of seeking medical help to deliver; the second was the lack of transport to a medical facility; and the third was the lack of access to skilled healthcare workers and medical supplies. 

The Mayi na Mwana project was able to reach 30 healthcare facilities with their services, offering funds for facilities and training to healthcare workers and volunteers to respond to maternal emergencies with high quality care. Those who were trained handled an estimated 40,000 maternal and child health cases between 2020 and 2023

In that time, maternal deaths dropped by 50%, stillbirths were reduced by 30%, and the number of expecting mothers who booked antenatal care rose from 34% to 37%.

Furthermore, CRS addressed the second concern, the lack of access to transportation to a medical facility, by installing Motor Tricycle Ambulances (MMTA) into the districts they served.

Moses Chirwa hailed the efforts of all those who took part in the Mayi na Mwana project, noting that CRS intends to expand their reach to accommodate more expectant mothers in the second iteration of Mayi na Mwana. He said: 

“The Mayi and Mwana project has reached thousands of women in the Eastern Province of Zambia, and healthcare facilities in the project also served more than 3,000 women from Mozambique. The training and mentorship the project provides to health workers has improved their management of maternity emergencies. In phase one we reduced stillbirths by 30% and maternal deaths by 50%. We look forward to reaching even more women and achieving greater results in Mayi and Mwana II.”

Read more about the May na Mwana project at Catholic Relief Services.

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