In the densely-populated compound of Chawama in Lusaka, CIDRZ recently presented findings of an assessment that explained reasons why up to 80% of women living in Zone One were choosing not to go to the local health centre to deliver. In attendance at the presentation were hospital staff, community members and representatives from the Lusaka District Health Office.
The Zone One assessment concluded that most pregnant women in this area of the Chawama compound are knowledgeable about the risks and complications of pregnancy and labour, but cultural and religious barriers to early health-seeking and facility deliveries are still strong. Family members, and especially spouses, play a major role in women making decisions about their healthcare, including delivering at a health facility. In addition, the type of service and support a woman receives from the facility provider either motivated or demotivated her to access the health facility in her time of need.
With generous funding from The ELMA Foundation, CIDRZ is conducting a programme called Preterm Resources, Education, and Effective Management of Infants, or PREEMI. The CIDRZ PREEMI team are working with local Safe Motherhood Action Groups (SMAGs) to help sensitise members of the community about important health issues as they relate to pregnant mothers, unborn babies and infants. Using drama performances, one-to-one and group meetings, trained SMAG members explain the importance of early healthcare seeking in pregnancy and labour, and challenge some of the cultural, religious, and healthcare service communication and provision barriers that prevent this.
35 Local Chawama Women Trained as SMAGs
Thus, women in the community with SMAG training can be excellent local resources to pregnant women and their families by providing information, encouraging facility deliveries, and demystifying community perceptions about the health facility. But clearly, good communication skills and care provided by health facility staff to pregnant and labouring women play a major role in the success of this initiative. Moving forward more community education on the importance of facility delivery targeting spouses, family members, traditional elders and church leaders is required, as well as training and systems approaches to improving the quality of care provided at local health facilities.
During the event, 35 SMAG members based in Chawama were presented with certificates of achievement at the Chawama Mini Hospital.