Two female executives on Friday chose to forego the comfort of their homes and spend the night with expectant women at Zingwangwa Health Centre maternity ward in Blantyre.
The duo—Malawi-Scotland Partnership chief executive officer Vera Kantukule and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) communications manager Clara Mwafulirwa—undertook the sleepover challenge in a bid to raise funds for the Nation Publications Limited (NPL) Mother’s Day Fun Run.
The NPL Mothers Day Fun Run is an initiative that raises funds in support of safe motherhood in public hospitals. The annual event takes place in October.
Kantukule and Mwafulirwa arrived at the health centre carrying handbags containing a chitenje for a bedsheet and a light blanket each.
The ladies descended the steps leading them to the maternity ward to the welcome of Blantyre district health officer Dr. Medson Matchaya and NPL marketing officer Vanessa Mdala.
They were led to the ward where they were allocated beds. Despite the room having a few vacant beds with mattresses, the duo chose beds without mattresses because there was anticipation that the health centre, with a catchment area of over 153 000, will admit more expectant women during the night. Indeed, within the first hour of the challenge, the health centre admitted one more expectant woman
Having made their not-so-comfortable beds, the women said they were excited to be part of the sleepover challenge.
“For me it’s like going back to my roots because I relate with the women that come to this hospital. I have used these facilities before and I have also taken care of my relations during labour so, when I learnt about this initiative, I was happy to come and be part of this challenge and I am so excited to relive my previous life because this is where I belong,” said Mwafulirwa.
Her counterpart hoped that the discomfort of sleeping on a hospital bed will contribute towards improvement of maternal health care in Malawi.
“If what we are doing is not going to impact on a national agenda then we would have failed. I am hoping that after this, we are going to use the experience to influence policy change, to talk to people who matter to ensure that things have changed for women in maternal health,” said Kantukule.
The women said they were mentally prepared for the conditions ahead of them which included, mosquito bites because the few insecticide-treated nets were already taken up by the expectant women admitted to the ward.
Mwafulirwa took her acclimatisation to another level by parking her vehicle and using public transport on her way to the health centre.
“I came by public transport and I dropped at Kudya [about a kilometre and half away] and I walked all the way to this place. I came here sweating and for me that meant a lot to me because I was looking at the challenges ahead of me and the women that I am going to support. These are the women who are pregnant, but they come to this hospital using public transport,” she said.
And the conditions did not scare them.
“I am actually mentally prepared. I have been under worse situations than these, I think this is okay. It is necessary that I go through this experience so that I have first-hand information,” said Kantukule.
The duo have now set their eyes on how much financial support they will get for the NPL Mother’s Day Fun Run which will support safe motherhood at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and other health centres under the Blantyre District Health Office.
Kantukule has already raised K500 000 and she hoped to hit K2 million while Mwafulirwa said she had just started her campaign, but was optimistic that she will raise more than the K200 000 target set by organisers.
“These women have set the ball rolling and we hope that more women will come in and participate in the next one on September 9 to be conducted either at Limbe or Ndirande health centre,” said Mdala. n