Joseni Village in Nkhotakota is just like many other villages in the rural Malawi that had been struggling with maternal and newborn health (MNH) problems due to lack of knowledge and delayed care seeking behaviour.
However, since 2015 after MaiKhanda Trust started implementing the Big Lottery Fund sponsored project aimed at improving maternal and newborn health in the district situation is no longer the same. People of Joseni village have defied odds in overcoming critical preventable barriers to maternal and newborn health thanks to Information, Education and Communication (IEC) in the form of writings on the houses walls.
Prior to that, unplanned pregnancies, delivering at Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), malnutrition, not attending antenatal care (ANC) and many other life threatening situations in MNH seemed all normal to them. As a result they had high rates of maternal and neonatal deaths of which some could have been avoidable or at least managed.
But now, through women group meetings and taskforces established in the village through the project, community members are able to identify maternal and newborn health problems and come up with locally applicable means of solving such problems. In most cases, these women groups and taskforces operate by doing meetings and door to door visits but they decided to incorporate some other channels like the use of IEC to enhance the interventions and knowledge levels.
Usually, one would think of posters, radio jingles and many other most known types of IEC materials but these are just local people who cannot afford these means. Still they did not give up but rather came up with the idea of writing crucial MNH messages such as the importance of ANC attendance, consumption of 6 important food groups, family planning and health facility deliveries on the walls of every house in the community.
“Before the commencement of the project, many women used to deliver at TBAs and neonatal deaths and born before arrival cases were on the increase but the situation has now changed for the better. Women are now well informed on maternal and newborn care. It is even impressive that the traditional leaders exert so much effort supporting women groups and taskforces.” said Eneless Mzokomera, Senior Health Surveillance Assistant at Bua Health Centre in Nkhotakota District.
The messages on the walls are aimed at reaching out to people who do not or are reluctant to join the women groups and taskforces so that they still get the crucial information. This has proved to be effective as there is a decrease in maternal and newborn deaths, increase in ANC attendance during the first three months of the pregnancy and health facility deliveries.
MaiKhanda community structures (Taskforces and Women Groups) also aim to reduce delays in reaching the facility from the community. These groups use local ideas to address the factors leading to the delays.
Joseni Village is a perfect example of the importance of having communities empowered with knowledge and skills regarding MNH and also that IEC can be a very effective intervention tool to bring about appropriate changes in behavior especially among populations with high risk behaviors.
With support from BLF through Women and Children First (WCF), MaiKhanda is implementing a project in Nkhotakota aimed at improving maternal and newborn health in the district. The project focuses on two components namely quality improvement in health facilities and community intervention.