Access to health; especially to sexual reproductive and under-five health care are imperative to reducing high maternal and infant mortality.
According to the United Nation’s Emergency Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 591 maternal deaths occur per 100,000 live births while the infant, neonatal and under-five mortality rates are at 70, 34, and 119 per 1,000 live births, respectively in Zambia.
The organization says the mortality rates are unacceptably high and the major causes of child mortality are malaria, respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malnutrition, and anaemia including HIV and AIDS. Malnutrition has been on the increase and is attributed to the worsening poverty levels and increase in food insecurity, as well as suboptimal infant and young child feeding practices.
UNICEF further indicates that in Zambia, only 47 percent of births are attended by a skilled health worker at health institutions. Home delivery is high and stands at 53 percent. Communities in rural areas have limited access to health care.
The UN says it is currently, estimated that in urban areas approximately 99 percent of households are within 5 kilometres of a health facility, compared to 50 percent in rural areas.
The leadership of Chitukutuku Area Association led by its female Chairperson Mrs Grace Nachiibanga and her Treasurer Mrs Brenda Chibumba Mweemba realized this aspect and did not sit idle when they noticed the lack of a close by health facility.
To address the challenge, the Association wrote a letter to St Pauls Mission Hospital that was established by the Catholic Church requesting them to spread provision of similar services in the area in order to cut the long distances community members covered to access the hospital which resulted in death of many patients.
“We wrote the letter and they presented our case to government and district level which is also helping the St Paul’s Hospital and they agreed to be providing services every last Friday of the month.” Brenda told WfC.
She added that her Area Association believes in the participation of the community to address their challenges and they thus mobilized the community and managed to mold bricks made of mud which they used to build two consultation rooms, a grass thatched waiting shelter, and a maternity consultation room.
“Though the structures are made of mud materials, the communities are able to access some help, we hope to use cement and better building materials and increase water supply in future.” She explained.
She informed WfC that they have named the Clinic Chitukutuku Clinic which has been running for over two months and started operations in 2015.
Brenda and Grace are proud to have contributed to better access to health services in their community and surrounding villages. The health services include under five clinic, anti-natal and general health services.
The determined Chairperson and Treasurer of Chitukutuku Area Association also indicated that their efforts in future would be to ensure that the Clinic is fully operational and services the areas twenty-four hours as sickness does not knock before it comes.
The self-help efforts by people of Chitukutuku are indeed a welcome move that needs to be embraced across the country to help address the above worrying statistics regarding mothers, children’s health and general adult health.