Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) has called for increased provision of health services for the pregnant woman and child in rural areas as part of the final push in the attainment of the millennium development goals.

Addressing participants at a three-day ‘increasing access to maternal and child health services’ workshop in Mongu on Tuesday 20th August, 2014, PSAf programme manager Elias Banda said lack of community mobilization in accessing quality health services for the pregnant mother was one of the causes of the many deaths experienced due to pregnancy and child birth complications in rural areas.

He said Western province experienced the highest number of deaths among pregnant women in the country with figures standing at 786 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to other places. “There is therefore a need for a combined social mobilization of pregnant mothers to seek at their earliest convenience health services from government certified health centres near them. There is also need for the community, especially husbands to support their partners in seeking these health services so that the health of both mother and child can be guaranteed.”

Mr. Banda continued “Government has done its part by providing health centres and qualified staff. It is now the role of the community to ensure that every pregnant mother and child increases their intake of these health services.” Headman Uyoya Muyu of Kalangu Village in Mongu identified lack of support from the community members as one reason why pregnant women shunned health services.

Headman Muyu said “the women are usually stopped by their husbands from going to the health centres because these health facilities are far away and it costs more to provide food and accommodation for a pregnant woman who has travelled more than 20km to be near a health facility.” Headman Muyu also said that the unfriendly reception that these women received from the health centres also discouraged mothers from visiting these health centres for antenatal care.

PSAf in partnership with Save the Children has started a two-year advocacy campaign in Western, and North Western Provinces aimed at increasing demand and access of maternal and child health services in rural Zambia. The project is aimed at helping Zambia attain the achievement of millennium development goals. Among the activities planned is the mobilization of SMAGs and Radio Listening Clubs to increase awareness among the rural communities on the importance of pregnant mothers and under five children visiting health centres.

The workshop was attended by Radio Listening Clubs and Safe Motherhood Action Groups (SMAGs) from Lukulu, Sefula and Mongue. Also in attendance where Maternal and Child Health coordinators from the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child, Caritas Czech Republic, the Red Cross and the District Tasksforce of Maternal and Child Health services from the present districts.