Updated: Nov 18, 2021
What is the minimum a mother might expect when she arrives at a clinic to give birth? That there is running water to ensure a clean, safe delivery. That there is electricity to ensure the midwife’s work is well-lit. Somewhere clean and secure to bathe before nursing her child. Surely, all of these at the very least?
When Miriam arrived at the local government clinic in Nkomaula after a 20km bicycle ride, ready to give birth, she found none of these things. The clinic has no running water and relies upon guardians fetching water from a village borehole pump a few hundred metres away. Buckets of water from that communal pump are carried straight into the maternity ward. If the borehole is broken or dry, water must be fetched from a nearby river.
At night, it’s too dark and the clinic staff simply “make do” with whatever water they have prepared. Without mains electricity, the clinic relies on a few basic solar lamps for safe delivery. Ganizani Mafanizo, the nurse-midwife technician at the clinic, explained how fraught it can be to suture a new mother by torchlight.
Miriam gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Brenda, for whom she was hugely thankful. The clinic can scarcely attend to straightforward deliveries. Any complications and mothers are referred to the district hospital, a really challenging journey in the rainy season when the flood-prone area becomes near impossible to leave.
“The major problem here is water and the bathroom - there is no toilet or shower. It is not good for mothers who have just given birth.”
“The major problem here is water and the bathroom - there is no toilet or shower. It is not good for mothers who have just given birth,” explains Miriam. A dilapidated fence creates a room where the new mothers bathe, and they rely on the kindness of others to fetch water for them. The space isn’t private, secure or hygienic.
Baby Brenda will not remember this experience, but if nothing changes it could one day soon be her own experience. The sex discrimination faced by girls is plain to see in clinics like this. Their health, safety and security are at risk in a way that men will not experience. It is mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers who fetch the water and keep a bedside vigil.
Your support can help create a climate of change for girls. A nearby clinic is a testament to that as EMMS International’s partner, Mulanje Mission Hospital, has supported the clinic to have reliable running water for the first time in its 20 years. The clinician in charge explained what this meant for his staff and patients: “For the first time, we can easily clean our hands before and after each patient.”
“For the first time, we can easily clean our hands before and after each patient.”
Safe and effective healthcare facilities benefit everyone. However, this change is felt most acutely by women who, by reason of childbirth and child-raising, are much more frequent users of health services.
Creating a Climate of Change for Girls in Malawi
Madzi ndi moyo, water is life. As a subsistence farmer, this is Miriam’s daily experience. Unpredictable weather patterns are making it harder and harder for her to make a living from the land for her young family. “We depend on rains, the rivers are dry”, Miriam explains, but all too often when the rains come they come as floods. Crop prices are low and fertiliser prices are rising - the rain can make or break the family financially and nutritionally.
The availability of safe, reliable water holds sway over Miriam’s life in many ways, and now Brenda’s too. Your support gives her family health and strength as they face life’s many hardships, including those brought about by climate change. Your generosity can fuel her resilience and create a climate of change for girls in Malawi as they seek to overcome the challenges they face and pursue their own hopes and dreams.