How KOICA is helping newborns and mothers in Malawi

Patson Kayankoni assisting a mother at a postnatal ward at Mtakataka Health centre
© UNICEF/2019/Emmanuel Manyamba

By Lulutani Tembo, UNICEF Malawi

Patson Kadyankoni, 34, dreamed of becoming a reverend when he was a child. As he finished his secondary school, he pivoted towards nursing instead. Now, seated in the consultation room at Mtakataka Health Centre, he is a trusted nurse midwife. Dressed in a neat white nursing suit, he attends to pregnant and new mothers every day, helping keep them healthy and save lives.

In the morning, he starts his day by providing family planning services to mothers. Thereafter he moves to the ante-natal clinic to assist pregnant mothers. When there is a mother about to give birth, he conducts the delivery and provides the mothers with health information and support before they go home.

“I completed my nursing degree in 2008. My first job as a nurse was at Mua Mission before I joined Mtakataka Health Centre. I have been working here for almost 9 years now,” explains Patson.

Patson is the first born in a family of six children. His parents were farmers who managed to send all their children to school. They were particularly happy when he chose a nursing career, because his  family is full of teachers. Patson is equally passionate about his job. “I love my job very much. I enjoy seeing a pregnant woman going back home with healthy babies. I feel good knowing that pregnancy is not a death sentence for mothers and unborn children,” says Paston.

Patson Kayankoni in the consultation room with an expectant mother
© UNICEF/2019/Emmanuel Manyamba

His job at Mtakataka Health Centre hasn’t always been easy. In the past, midwives were facing challenges in performing certain procedures, especially complications related to birth and delivery like manual removal of returned placentas and postpartum hemorrhage. The health centre often deals with teen mothers who can experience difficult  deliveries. And, other midwives didn’t have the necessary  skills to deal with  challenges of labor and delivery.

“Previously we did too many referrals at our health centre because we didn’t have the necessary skills to attend to the needs of our patients. We would refer them to MUA Mission Hospital which is a paying hospital,” Patson explains.

Training midwives

Things changed for the better when staff at the Mtakataka health centre received vital training, supported by UNICEF with funding from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in 2017.  “Two midwives and two medical assistants, 100% representation of all clinical staff at this remote facility  underwent training to enhance clinical skills on management of effective emergency obstetric care and newborns. The training was so helpful because most of us only knew information we learnt in college years ago,” Patson outlines.

Thanks to their newfound skills and training, health workers are now able to manage complicated deliveries while improving relationships with the local community. “Because of the skills we gained in the training, we now have less referrals to MUA Mission Hospital and this has made community members have increased confidence in us. It has also saved service costs because every time a client was referred to the next level of care, there were costs incurred by the mothers and their families.”

Charity breastfeeding her one month old daughter
© UNICEF/2019/Emmanuel Manyamba

Charity benefits from the skilled midwives

Charity, 19 years old, is a young mother who lives just a few minutes from Mtakataka health centre. After writing her standard 8 exams, she got pregnant and experienced complications during delivery.  

“The day of my delivery, I walked to the health centre in the morning with my aunty since it is close by,”  Charity explained . “During the delivery I struggled to push the baby and I experienced a tear. Luckily the midwives repaired my  tear. I was very happy with how quickly they helped me, they took good care of me and were so kind.” Charity has received postnatal checkups and is recovering well with a healthy baby girl.

KOICA support

With funding from KOICA, UNICEF Malawi is supporting the Government of Malawi to improve the health of Malawian women and newborns. Currently, Nkhata Bay, Dedza, Mangochi, Thyolo and Blantyre districts are receiving support to facilitate the delivery of reproductive maternal and newborn health services.

“We are grateful to the Government of the Republic of Korea on the support they’re providing to the Malawian health sector,” says UNICEF Chief of Health, Tedla Damte. “With KOICA’s support we are building the capacity of healthcare providers particularly those in rural areas, in the provision of quality obstetric and newborn care services. With such support we can contribute towards universal health coverage and reduce preventable maternal and newborn deaths in Malawi.”

A KOICA trained midwife at Ndirande Health Centre
© UNICEF/2019/Thoko Chikondi

Health centers like Mtakataka receive over 20,000 patients a year, and there aren’t enough staff to keep up with demand. “There are days when I have to do all deliveries myself. For instance, today, I am the only midwife on a duty. I am covering the labour ward, ante-natal clinic and family planning and providing HIV treatments. I think we need at least 4 nurses and 3 medical assistants to ensure that we always give our clients the best services,” Patson explains.

Nonetheless, Patson is grateful for the support he and his colleagues have received from UNICEF and KOICA. “There was a time we had no folic acid at all at our health centre, and now UNICEF is helping us with folic acid, so the poor woman in the community are receiving the assistance they deserve,” he says. “I hope that health workers in other health facilities can also undergo the training that I had.”

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