The AMECA Maternity Unit

“On average, women in labour walk 4 – 5 hours over steep hills and uneven rocky paths to reach care.  These journeys present even greater challenges at night and during the rainy season, often resulting in tragic consequences for mother and child.”

Following a request from our communities for a maternity unit at Chilaweni, AMECA commissioned a Maternity Needs Assessment for the entire region, to identify gaps in service provision, in order to ascertain the level of need for maternity services. The study enabled AMECA to make an informed decision, backed up by thorough research, on the requirement and justification for a new maternity clinic at Chilaweni.

Findings indicated that 24% of the population consists of Women of Child Bearing Age, 18% of children being below the age of 5 years and 5% children being under 1 year.Women faced difficulties in accessing obstetric services due to the distance, terrain and high cost of travel to the nearest health facility. On average, a pregnant woman walks about 4 – 5 hours to reach care, often over uneven steep hills. These journeys present severe challenges when in early labour, at night and during the rainy season, often resulting in tragic consequences for mother and child.

In 2019, architects plans were drawn up and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the Blantyre District Health Office.

On the 9th September, 2019, construction began on the maternity unit and 2 staff duplex houses, which will provide accommodation for a further 4 staff members and their families.

On the 9th October, a Foundation Stone ceremony was held at Chilaweni, to mark the commencement of the building project. Read about the ceremony at this link.

In spite of the challenges of Covid, excellent progress was made on site during the last year.

One month after the start of the building, foundations were completed.

By November 2020, construction was completed. The maternity clinic comprises a 3-bed Delivery Room, a 4-bed Antenatal Ward and a 6-bed Postnatal Ward, together with an admission room, a large out-patients waiting area, examination rooms, nurses station, a sluice and a staff room.
Antenatal and family planning clinics take place during the week and postnatal consultations are arranged with mothers, following their delivery.

Two new duplex houses were constructed, providing further accommodation for four staff members and their families. One of the houses is being used to provide accommodation for midwife mentors who have been contracted by AMECA.

More details of the construction of the maternity clinic can be viewed at this link.

Individual patient cubicles were fitted in the delivery room in keeping with AMECA’s vision to provide safe, respectful and women-centred maternity care. The cubicles provide an atmosphere of privacy and dignity, allowing mothers in labour to move around and also allowing sufficient space to have their patient guardian or partner by their side.

Detail of the post natal ward.

Explaining healthcare message murals to the community chiefs.

In October 2020, AMECA rolled out the second phase of the maternity project. We recognise that any facility, however well built, is only ever as good as the services it provides; an integral part of AMECA’s vision is the provision of maternity staff mentorship and training in order to implement high standards of care by well-trained staff. We are most grateful for the support for this initiative from Dr. Kawalazira, Blantyre District Health Officer and his Team.

Prior to the maternity clinic being operational, AMECA contracted 2 experienced midwives, who live on site and provide mentorship and support for clinical staff at the maternity clinic.

Initial feedback from the mothers who delivered their babies at the new maternity clinic has been hugely positive. All the mothers have commented on the quality of care and the excellent attention given to them by maternity staff. They love the maternity unit and felt it to be bright and clean and welcoming. Some mothers who have previously delivered at other facilities commented that it was quite a contrast to their previous experiences and that they felt respected and treated with dignity at AMECA’s maternity clinic. That is lovely to hear and a testament to the professionalism of the midwife mentors and the maternity staff.

Felista, the first baby delivered at the new AMECA Maternity Unit.