By Faith Kamtambe Kadzanja
In Malawi there are many reported cases of unsafe abortion complications. Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe treats about 270 women and girls with unsafe abortion complications a month. This is according to the District nursing and midwifery Officer Bertha Kaudza.
In some cases, due to the unavailability of trained providers or indeed medical equipment, people fail to access the service.
Noting the challenges, Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) is implementing a project called improving access to post abortion care and post abortion family planning funded through International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) which aims at improving the availability of and access to post-abortion care and contraception through the provision of care and the creation of an enabling environment. The project is being implemented in Lilongwe and Ntcheu districts.
Currently through the project, FPAM has so far mentored 46 services providers on PAC management and post abortion care contraceptives and 96 community health workers have been oriented on PAC management. FPAM has also managed to educate 96 gatekeepers including chiefs on the availability of PAC services.
The organization has also purchased medical equipment used during post abortion care service provision including Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) sets for some facilities in the two districts.
One of the trained PAC service providers Chance Musongole who works at Kabudula rural Hospital in Lilongwe said the knowledge he gained through the training is saving the lives of many women and girls in his area.
“The most notable change is the quality of the PAC service that is now provided. I now rarely see patients reporting back with complications but initially clients would report back,’’ he said.
According to Musongole most of the post abortion cases the facility receives include cases of incomplete and spontaneous abortions.
Group Village Head Lihako of Lizulu in Ntcheu District also narrates that in his area, many adolescent girls are getting unwanted pregnancies such that they encourage them to be using modern methods of family planning. He says through the project, authorities sensitized them on availability of PAC services at Lizulu Health Centre and the chiefs now use community meetings to pass the messages to their subjects.
“We have been empowered to alert people in the community to seek medical attention when a need for post abortion care arises. Currently many have taken note of the services as before women were just using local herbs and we were losing a lot of lives,’ he explains.
Nurse Midwife Technician at Lizulu Health Centre Velina Lumwira also testifies that before the project, many people in the community did not know that the service is provided at their facility.
She adds that the use of gate keepers in raising awareness of PAC services to community members through Value Clarification Attitudes Transformation (VCAT) sessions has increased access to the services.
“FPAM through this project has trained one service provider at this facility adding to the two services providers that were there. This has improved service delivery,’ she said.
On her part PAC Coordinator for Ntcheu District Office Mwai Sabola Banda hailed FPAM for what she described as ‘a timely intervention’.
The two year project being implemented since 2022 running up to December 2023 also aims at providing community engagement to build support among community stakeholders for access to post-abortion care and contraception.