Midwife Battles Climate Change and Maternal Mortality in Malawi

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Midwife Chancy Banda is a fierce advocate for women’s health, especially in times of emergency. She works in southern Malawi’s Nsanje district, where she is the nursing and midwifery officer responsible for ensuring that all district health facilities provide effective maternity and nursing care.

Responding to Cyclone Freddy

In March 2023, Cyclone Freddy severely damaged the roads and bridges leading to Nsanje, which meant that health facilities were cut off from receiving critical medical supplies and health workers were unable to refer patients with health complications to higher levels of care. Chancy immediately went into advocacy mode – making the necessary noise to get emergency services for her cut-off health facilities. 

Advocating for emergency obstetric and newborn care

Chancy advocated for Kalemba Community Hospital to become a fully functional comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care (CEmONC) site, which means health providers are able to perform interventions for pregnant women and newborns experiencing fatal complications, including severe bleeding, infection, prolonged or obstructed labor, eclampsia, and asphyxia in newborns. 

Responding to Chancy’s call, Nsanje district health office asked Seed Global Health for help and we promptly accepted, supporting the district with accommodation and meals for four CEmONC-trained health workers (nurses, clinicians, and an anesthetist), ambulance and generator fuel, and medical and cleaning supplies. 

Saving lives

Seed support enabled smooth implementation of CEmONC services at Kalemba Community Hospital while construction crews worked to restore roads and bridges. 

The support also helped prevent avoidable maternal and newborn deaths. During this time, health workers at Kalemba Community Hospital performed seven cesarean sections and treated one case of postpartum hemorrhage and two cases of severe newborn asphyxia. All mothers and newborns, many of whom were referred from smaller health centers in Nsanje, were promptly managed and discharged alive. 

“Chancy is the true definition of a strong leader, midwife advocate, and a great supporter of the importance of multidisciplinary teams in responding to emergencies,” said Malawi Interim Country Director Anda Nyondo.

Recognizing the effects of climate change on health

Climate-driven events like cyclones and excess rainfall put undue stress on health systems. Seed is at the forefront of advancing global discussions on the nexus of climate change and health. With climate change driving effects like adverse weather events and growing disease burdens, communities with fewer resources, like Nsanje district, are disproportionately impacted.

The public and private sectors must work together to increase investments in the health workforce as a way to better manage the effects of climate change on health.

Seed Global Health is grateful to the IZUMI Foundation for funding our lifesaving Cyclone Freddy response work in Malawi.

Read more about Seed’s work at the intersection of climate change and health.


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