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Fifteen babies die in a month in Mzimba

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The mortality rate for newborn babies in Mzimba remains high with 15 deaths of babies before reaching 28 days recorded in the month of August alone. This is despite government raising funding towards M’belwa district council’s health sector from K3.6 million per month in the 2015/16 financial year to K21 million the hospital has been receiving since August 2016.

The district council, which has 31 health facilities in remote areas in the southern part, earlier registered an average 19 deaths of babies out of an average of 44 born every month last financial year.

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Mzimba District Health Officer Lumbani Munthali has confirmed the deaths in an interview on Thursday but argued that it is a drop compared to last year’s figures.

Munthali said the decrease is because government has for the months of August and September managed to allocate normal funding for the district’s health department which was approved to be K252 million for 12 months.

“After improved funding from the month of August 2016, we find that things seem to be improving such that in that month, we only had 15 neonatal deaths.

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And there were 1,393 live births in the month of August 2016. In simple calculations, it means there were 11 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births. This therefore shows a significant improvement from 15 neonatal deaths per 1000 live births to 11 neonatal deaths per 1000 live births after improved funding,” Munthali said in response to the questionnaire.

And speaking in an interview on Monday, Munthali said the deaths occur because the district has its health facilities far from the Boma and difficult to reach.

He also attributed the shortage of nurses and medical staff at the district hospital and other facilities arguing that these cripple other health services.

“Last year, we hear that normal funding stopped in February and that raised the neonatal deaths. It is our hope that if government continues giving us the normal funding as it has started, the figure might further drop. We know we were rescued by the exposing Mamaye report on Transparency and Accountability Scorecards and Health Budget Advocacy Initiative project. This has brought a change and we hope with enough workforce and other interventions such as accountability in managing resources, the number will continue dropping,” Munthali said.

However, Executive Director for Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) George Jobe said the ministry should find possible ways of fighting the deaths, arguing the figures remain dangerous.

Jobe said neonatal deaths symbolise poor health services hospitals provide to the innocent citizens. Recently, the ministry allocated six Nurse Midwife Technicians and four Community Midwife Assistants which the DHO says are not enough compared to the population.

He said the nurses and other medical staff overwork; a development he said compromises some of the services.

Malawi Demographic Health Survey of 2015 – 2016 found that at national level, neonatal mortality rate was 27 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births last year.

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