Maternity Shelter

  • Community Growth
  • Health
  • Women & Gender
  • Zambia
This project is led by Pranav Menon, a Volunteer from Arizona

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The local community consists of 15 villages and the Health Post serves approximately 3000 individuals. The current situation at the Health Post is less than ideal for mothers; having just 2 labor beds which are located in a small room at the back of the clinic. The lack of space and beds has led to many mothers in labor being turned away and being asked to come back when contractions are closer together. After being turned away, they will sometimes have to walk many kilometers back to their homes. Given our population, we are supposed to have an estimated 12 births per month. However, we currently only have 5 to 6. We have found that mothers are travelling to far off clinics that can accommodate them and some are even giving birth at home. Traveling far distances and home births boths consistently put the lives of the mother and child at risk. Additionally, mothers are unable to receive the privacy they deserve. Currently, our labour room shares a wall with the screening room, making the mothers feel uncomfortable during the delivery period. The purpose of this birthing center is to address the immediate need of a safe and comfortable area for mothers to give birth. It is the hope of the health workers in my community that a shelter dedicated to pregnant mothers will increase number of safe births in the local community.

The community was entirely the driving force behind this project. As mentioned before, my in-charge was the first to approach me regarding the need for a maternity shelter. Once we spoke, I made him understand that in order for me to begin the grant writing process I must see dedication from the rest of the community. As a result, I asked him to create a Maternity Shelter Committee of equal numbers of men and women, a comprehensive budget list outlining the community contribution, and a letter of need stating exactly why this shelter is needed. I also informed him that the committee needed to meet without me at least once to discuss the logistics of this maternity shelter. I gave them a deadline of 14th June to complete all of this. They came back on the 13th with all of these requirements completed. Their dedication and desire for a maternity ward was clear from this point. The committee has been given DHO approved floor plans to work with. Clinic staff has reached out to head men in all the surrounding villages. The headmen were quick to allocate land for this project and have pledged a certain amount of money. The surrounding communities will also be providing all of the brick, sand, and stone necessary for the construction of this shelter. They have already assigned individuals responsible for building the bricks and gathering the sand and are in the process of bringing the materials to the site of construction right now. At the time that I write this, the community has already molded well over 20,000 bricks for the maternity annex.

Sustainability is key and the MSC members, clinic staff, and I have been attempting to answer this question every step of the way. While it is true that this grant will provide them the money needed for construction and once I leave they may not have the same access to grants, we have tried to mitigate this issue by having community members involved in the grant writing process. We have tried, to the best of our ability, to build this shelter from locally available materials and carpenters. However, there are times we must put the structural integrity of the building first. Though the building has not been constructed we have already started discussions on how the shelter will be run. The Health Post already has many working TBAs. However, many do not come in due to the fact that our space cannot support them. Once the shelter is built, they have ensured their consistent presence at the shelter. One of their many activities will be to present mothers at the shelter with health talks on various topics. The TBAs are quite excited by the possibility of having a building in which they can be dedicated to their work. As stated before, the sheer size of this projects requires a large amount of community collaboration which in itself lends to sustainability. Once the skills required for a project of this kind are instilled in members, they are not easily lost and can be used for future projects they may have.

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