Activists advocate for inclusion of stillbirths in health planning


Health experts have asked the government and other partners in the sector to find the root cause of stillborn babies bearing in mind that the issue has been ignored in public health planning.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes stillborn baby as one born with no signs of life at or after 28 weeks’ pregnancy. A baby may also have died during late pregnancy.

The call was in reaction to 2014/15 Health Sector Mid-Year review report that Minister of Health, Jean Kalilani, made in April which revealed that 4,114 stillborn babies were recorded in six months at the country’s public health facilities.


She said: “I know that these deaths represent the tip of an iceberg as many more may occur in the communities or are underreported in the [health] facilities.”

Board Chairperson for White Ribbon Alliance, Lennie Kamwendo, noted that there has been little emphasis on this issue yet many babies are born dead.

“As a country, we need to critically look into the root causes of stillborn babies and neonatal mortality,” she said.


Kamwendo added: “Mind you this is not only about the lost babies but the mother as well. It’s painful for women to give birth to a dead child after months of waiting.”

Executive Director for Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), Martha Kwataine, said it’s high time the issue of stillbirths was considered and its prevention was included in health care plans.

“We need to find out the cause of these deaths and this is an issue that needs collaborative efforts,” she said.

Kwataine observed that it was traumatic to carry a baby for months only to give birth to a dead baby.

“Imagine this woman might have given birth through caesarean yet the baby is not there. It’s so unfortunate that we ignore this issue when developed countries deal with it,” she said.

Kwataine noted that every sector needs to play their part in ensuring that there are no stillborn babies saying it’s sad that women are encouraged to deliver at health facilities yet they are negligected.

“This is not only happening at public hospitals. Private hospitals are also delivering stillborn babies. Babies are dying due to negligence and treatable ailments,” she noted.

Save the Children report of 2013 on the state of the world’s mothers titled: Surviving the First Day’ says stillbirths are a neglected tragedy which mostly occurs in rural areas of developing countries.

“The loss is equally tragic and often preventable yet still births have been largely neglected by the global public health community until recently. Progress in reducing stillbirths has been even slow,” reads part of the report.

It highlights that there are 2.6 million stillbirths each year which could be prevented with the same solutions that save mothers and newborns, such as quality care at birth, emergency obstetric care including C-Section and prenatal care.

“Stillbirths are not mentioned in Millennium Development Goals four and five…Failure to set global policy goals and targets to reduce stillbirths suggests that these new-borns are in particular need for attention,” says the report.

According to WHO, the major causes of stillbirth include, childbirth complications, maternal infections in pregnancy, maternal disorders ,especially hypertension and diabetes, foetal growth restriction and congenital abnormalities.

It says almost half of stillbirths happen when the woman is in labour.

“The majority of stillbirths are preventable, evidenced by the regional variation across the world. The rates correlate with access to maternal healthcare.

Despite similar disparities for maternal and neonatal deaths, which are currently being addressed under the Millennium Development Goals, stillbirths remain an invisible public health priority,” says the WHO.

Ministry of Health Deputy Spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe, said stillbirths are a huge health burden affecting millions of women around the world.

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