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Chiefs Play Important Role In Decreasing Maternal Mortality In Malawi

If Malawi President Joyce Banda’s mission to decrease the country’s high maternal mortality rate is to succeed, “it will depend, in part, on her government’s ability to harness the country’s true power brokers, Malawi’s 20,000 village chiefs — and sensitize them to the dangers of women giving birth with [unskilled] attendants, while still respecting tribal traditions,” author Courtney Martin writes in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog. She profiles a program instituted by Chief Kwataine of the Ntcheu area, “home to some 500,000 people.” The area now has “48 ‘safe motherhood committees’ — each comprised of 10 community members who have distinct roles to support health among the villages’ mothers and young children,” Martin states, noting the structure and roles respect the communities’ tradition and culture.

“In 2007, there were 40 maternal deaths in Ntcheu, according to Chief Kwataine,” Martin states, adding, “Now with 48 ‘safe motherhood committees’ operating, there hasn’t been a single maternal death in the area for more than three years.” She continues, “President Banda, the second female head of state in Africa, has 16 months left in office and thousands more chiefs to bring along (not to mention 1,000 midwives, which she also aims to train through the initiative)” (2/6).