WHEEL OF LIFE SAVING PRACTICES: THE VISUAL REMINDER FOR PROMOTING MATERNAL AND NEONATAL HEALTH IN RURAL LILONGWE

Although the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy targets for under 5 mortality and infant mortality were surpassed;63/1000 live births against a target of 78/1000 live births for the former and 42/1000 live births against a target of 45/1000 for the latter. There was also a steady decline in the maternal mortality ration which was estimated at 439/100,000 live births in 2016 down from675/100,000 in 2010 Neonatal mortality Rate was estimated at 27/1000 live births in 2016 down from 31/1000 live births in 2010.

Despite the progress, Malawi’s Maternal and Neonatal Mortality are still amongst the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country also suffers from a high disease burden from communicable diseases and an increasing burden from non-communicable diseases. These challenges are associated with people’s literacy levels, long distance to health facility, as well as lack of quality medical care

The USAID funded Health Communication for Life (HC4L) program thereby designed initiatives ranging from general community sensitizations to facility based health talks targeting ANC days and Home visits to caretakers of under-2 children and pregnant couples to ensure that rural masses have access to information for informed choices aimed at increasing demand for quality health care.

The wheel of life saving practices, a chart depicting health behaviors that can save the lives of pregnant women as well as children under two years of age has come in handy to prevent cases of maternal and neonatal mortality.
In rural Lilongwe, many households in T/A Masumbankhunda and Chadza with beneficiaries hail the initiative of home visits using the wheel of lifesaving practices as a powerful tool to remind them of health practices that they would otherwise take for granted or forget easily.

Monica Moses of Mkolokolo Village is one of the beneficiaries of the wheel of life saving practices from Mphunzi VDC, in T/A Masumbankhunda. She says the wheel which is pasted in her house is a constant reminder of what she needs to do to ensure that her 1 year old child and her entire family lives healthy. She said “each morning as I see this paper(referring to the wheel),I am reminded even before being visited by the Facilitator that I need to keep things in charge, as such I ensure that my family sleeps under mosquito nets and so far my child has never been affected by malaria.” I also ensure that I plan to feed my family of locally found foods that are rich in nutrients as visualized by the wheel and keep the environment clean.

She added that she was one of the people who did not see the importance of going to the hospital for under five clinic checkups for growth monitoring a child until she was convinced on its benefits by Mphunzi RLC members.
Facilitator of Mphunzi Radio Listening club, Lucky Kamtambo said the progress the wheel has produced is overwhelming and he is glad to have been part of the project that has seen homes embracing positive health behaviors such as prompt health seeking, having tippy taps (mpondagiya) to foster hand washing at all critical times as well as having backyard gardens to ensure untimely supply of vegetables and other supplements
“we are satisfied with how things are going in our area, we successfully collaborate with World relief volunteers in the Scaling Up nutrition Project, some of Mphunzi RLC members are world relief Volunteers making it easy for the two structures to collaborate in facilitating nutrition issues and water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) which are also what we do in HC4L”Kantambo said.

Egrita Joseph a mother of 7 children and a care taker of a three months old baby from Bongwe VDC who is a beneficiary for Bongwe RLC, concurred with Monica Moses on the importance of the wheel. she commends that the wheel acts as a reminder of behaviors to follow and to ensure that her household eats nutritious food by having a backyard garden where she eats as well as sell the vegetables to cater for her family food needs

Egrita Joseph and a member of Bongwe RLC next to the garden she established

“I was hesitant to start my ANC considering that I have given birth to 6 children before; members who approached me convinced me that each journey towards motherhood is different and require caution. I was encouraged to start ANC at the time as they approached me in my fourth month of pregnancy”. She added that she started the ANC visits and went each month out of which she successfully gave birth to her seventh child at Malingunde hospital which she hopes will be the last born as she has decided to go for family planning. Apart from this, she has noted total absence of diarrhea cases amongst her children as she constantly boils drinking water unlike before where she drank water straight from the borehole.

In rural Lilongwe, Many more lives of caretakers of under 2 children and pregnant couples as well as neighbors who periodically join the conversations are benefiting from the initiative of the wheel of lifesaving practices. Traditional Authority Masumbankhunda alone has 5 radio listening clubs and 2community theatre groups who all have an average coverage of 25 households using the wheels of life saving practices.

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