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Stakeholders urged to eradicate maternity myths

By Andrew Magombo

Lilongwe, Mana: Key stakeholders in the health care of neonates (newborns) have been urged to step up efforts in dealing with myths on perception of pregnancy, childbirth and other policy issues affecting health services.

The plea was made on Thursday in Lilongwe by some neonatal mothers who staged an art exhibition at Kamuzu Central Hospital as one way of sharing their roles and experiences before and after birth of their babies.

Among other things, the women illustrated and explained their personal stories when accessing antenatal, labour, delivery and neonatal services

Ellen Howa, one of the mothers, showcasing her presentation on myths. Photo by MANA.

Speaking on their behalf, Ellen Howa from Gulliver in Area 49, said much as hospitals provide maternity and neonatal counseling services once in a while, women spend more time in the communities as such they fall prey to many of the promulgated traditions.

According to Howa, some of the taboos including pregnant mothers being restricted to consume eggs, hot tea and chilli as that allegedly brings blindness, hair loss, and burning of the baby’s skin respectively.

She said: “The fact that we visit the hospital once in a while and spend the rest of the days in our communities, makes it difficult for us not to follow our traditions which is a big risk nutrition wise.”

“I would like to ask authorities to do more on this and remove the veil of ignorance because we are misled with some traditions which are rooted in our societies hence there is a strong need for awareness campaigns.”

Principal Investigator in the NeoTree Program, Dr Msandeni Chiume Kayuni

In her response, Principal Investigator of Neotree who is also Head of Deparment in Pediatrics at KCH, Dr Msandeni Chiume Kayuni said it is hard to engage with communities when there is no shared understanding hence it was important to give the women a chance to explain ordeals on the ground through art.

“We came up with the program of community engagement in order to discuss with the mothers because it is hard to implement health interventions to people you barely share common knowledge and experiences with.”

Kayuni pledged that all feedback from the exbhition will be used to improve the program which will now focus on taking it to the communities across Malawi.

Prior to the exbhition, the mothers received training by ArtGlo on how they can skilfully use art methods such as photography, drawing and videography to tell health care workers and decision makers their experiences when using health services.

Programs Manager for ArtGlod, Lekodi Magombo, said art is one way through which neonatal services can improve in the health sector.

“Prior to the event, we trained the mothers on how they can skillfully use their own art in photography, drawing and videography to share their experiences when using health services to health workers and decision makers.”