World Health Day: Celebrating Safe Births in Rural Mozambique
By Rev. Arlindo Romao*
While making strides in recent years, maternal and infant mortality rates in Mozambique are still among the highest in the world. The Mozambique Ministry of Health has attributed this to women's delays in seeking prenatal care, not going to a clinic or hospital for their delivery, and the delay in treatment once at a health facility.
The United Methodist Church of Mozambique’s Response
In the first year of the Abundant Health Initiative, 516 pregnant women received services at Cambine clinic, the staff helped to deliver 334 babies, and followed up 6,160 children with weighing and other services.
Mama Lucia and her baby. PHOTO: A. ROMAO
The United Methodist Cambine Health Center in Inhambane Province has been renovated, staffed and equipped through an Abundant Health grant, in partnership with the government. There are volunteer Community Health Advocates working in 13 villages, among 16,000 people. They encourage pregnant women and nursing mothers to attend the clinic for the best care and assistance. It was a Community Health Advocate who met and helped a mother named Lúcia.
Lúcia had delivered her first four children at home, assisted by local midwives. Then, 12 years later, when she suspected that she was pregnant again, her husband discouraged her from going to the clinic. He told her to wait and see. About six months later, a Community Health Advocate came to visit the village. “When she came to my house she spoke about the importance of prenatal care services,” remembers Lúcia. “She said that women should go to the Center for a pregnancy test if they weren’t sure they were pregnant.”
“I decided to go to Cambine to make sure. When the result was positive, they asked why I’d taken so long to come for services. I explained that my husband hadn’t let me. That day, I started to attend, but by the end of the eighth month I had complications. I had to call the Advocate to help me go to the Center. I went from Cambine to Morrumbene Hospital, and finally to Chicuque for a caesarian section. This program helped me a lot because if I had stayed at home, I might have lost my son, or even died myself. I gave birth in the hospital. It was better because it was safe. At home, we cannot do this.”
The Importance of Services
Through the program at Cambine, women are monitored throughout their pregnancy, receive malaria prevention and treatment, are screened for anemia and high blood pressure, and learn how to prepare for their delivery. They are also routinely tested for HIV so that both mother and baby can be protected. Prenatal care is an essential service for pregnant women. It can be lifesaving for both mother and child - as it was for Lúcia.
*Rev. Arlindo Romao is the Health Board Coordinator of the United Methodist Church of the Mozambique Conference