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Community partnership - Balaka, Malawi

September 2015

Our new Scottish Government funded project: Increasing citizens' demand for accountability and transparency for maternal and child health in Balaka District, Malawi.

Two Malawian women and a child

Project outline

Christian Aid is delighted that the Scottish Government has awarded us £600,000 to increase community demand for, and participation in, accountable, responsive maternal and child healthcare service delivery in Balaka District in Southern Malawi.

This project will build on the success of our current maternal, neonatal and child healthcare project in Karonga District, also funded by the Scottish Government.

In August 2014, Christian Aid and our partners Foundation for Community Support Services (FOCUS) and Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) conducted an independent health needs assessment in Balaka District.

The assessment mapped out the power relations, the barriers to women accessing health services and the maternal, neonatal and child healthcare (MNCH) needs in the district, and at national level.

Key issues identified included:

  • social and cultural norms, including male dominance, which negatively affect women's ability to demand and use maternal and neonatal services
  • lack of effective systems and structures for civil society to monitor district level spending on maternal, neonatal and child healthcare services
  • communities complaining about the poor quality of services available and the attitudes of health workers
  • duty bearers reporting that inconsistent and inadequate funding resulted in poor planning, equipping and supervision of healthcare services.  

Malawi suffers severe problems with poor coverage and quality of healthcare services, reflected in the high maternal mortality ratio - 510 deaths per 100,000 births in 2013, according to Malawi's National Statistical Office.

Poor and marginalised communities throughout Malawi experience a lack of power and influence, and there is little knowledge or use of the ombudsman service to register complaints about healthcare.

Women face socio-cultural and traditional barriers to accessing and participating in MNCH services. Statistics in Balaka District show that on average only 23% of pregnant women attend the recommended 4 antenatal care visits, and only 8% attend antenatal care in the first trimester of their pregnancy.

Men are often not prepared to support their wives to access these services, and traditional and religious leaders often fail to adequately promote the proper use of MNCH services.

Christian Aid is working with two partners to deliver this project. FOCUS is a local NGO established in 2000, with which Christian Aid has already worked successfully on several health projects.

MHEN is an independent, non-profit alliance of civil society organisations in the health sector interested in promoting equitable access to quality, affordable and responsive health care services in Malawi. Christian Aid has previously worked with MHEN on health financing issues.

Project aims

The aims of the project are to:

  • support men and women, and community leaders to have an increased awareness of maternal health issues, and address the socio-cultural barriers that prevent women and children from accessing appropriate healthcare services
  • empower communities and actively hold duty-bearers accountable for improving the quality of healthcare services
  • enable citizens to actively engage in budgetary and accountability processes, and influence the government of Malawi to increase health finance.  

How you can get involved

Christian Aid has committed to raise an additional £46,148 to add to the Scottish Government funding, and we are looking for churches or groups of churches to commit to raising £5,000 over the next three years to contribute to this sum.

Could your church make this pledge? As part of your partnership with us, we would guarantee to provide you with regular updates about how the project is progressing.

The project got under way in April 2015, and will run until March 2018.

With your help and support we can make a real difference to the community in Balaka District, providing better quality health services, particularly for mothers and their babies.

Find out more

To find out more about this project, and how your church could partner with Christian Aid to ensure its success, please email Mary Mulligan, Churches Development Officer, or call her on 0131 240 1523.


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