Malawi 2015

Total funding:
Our Funders:
Big Lottery
Comic Relief
Active Women’s
Women we've

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In 2013 3,400 women died during pregnancy or childbirth and 14,000 babies died in the first month of life.

You can help to change these statistics. You can help us save the lives of mothers and babies in Malawi.


The Problem

Pregnancy is such a dangerous time in a Malawian woman’s life that it is considered unlucky to tell people about it.

Violet Ntebe, who is pregnant with her fifth child, describes pregnancy as like “having one foot in the grave.” She has a point. A woman in Malawi stand a one in 26 chance of dying during pregnancy and in childbirth over the course of her lifetime and her chances increase with each pregnancy.

However, in Kanyemba village, it’s more than a year since the last newborn baby died from a preventable cause.

Key Statistics

  • Maternal mortality rate (MMR)          510 per 100,000 live births
  • Newborn mortality rate (NMR)          23 per 1,000 newborns
  • Infant mortality rate (IMR)                 44 per 1,000 infants (less than one years of age)
  • Under 5 mortality rate (U5MR)          68 per 1,000 children (under five years of age)

The Challenges

Malawi is a country with significant social and economic development challenges. Despite recent economic growth, the country still ranks 174 of 187 in the Human Development Index, and poverty remains widespread.

The Government of Malawi has prioritised expanding health services for mothers and children less than 5 years of age so as to increase availability and to improve the quality of health services. However, although there has been progress in improving maternal and child health outcomes over the past decades, The Millennium Development Goal for maternal health is unlikely to be met.

The majority of women in Malawi live in scattered villages and find it hard to reach health facilities. They also lack the information they need to make informed health decisions for themselves and their children.

At the same time, a lack of resources means that health facilities struggle to provide the quality services needed to save mothers’ and babies’ lives.

The difference we're making

Collaboration with local health partners is a critical factor in our success.

MaiKhanda Trust

We have worked with the MaiKhanda Trust since 2006. Our first project, funded by the The Health Foundation and delivered in Lilongwe, Kasungu and Salima districts showed that women's groups reduced the percentage of babies who died shortly before, during or after birth (perinatal mortality) by an impressive 16% and when the women's groups were coupled with Quality Improvement in health facilities the percentage of newborn deaths reduced by 23%. The project saved over 1,000 babies’ lives. Read the full project evaluation or the summary Learning Report .

Our current projects with Maikhanda build on previous success and extend the work to new districts.

We are establishing women’s groups across Nkhotakota district to make sure that women get access to proper healthcare and can hold service providers to account if the health services are poor. We will also improve the quality of care in all 18 health facilities in the district which offer maternity services.

In the Salima district we are testing the women’s groups model to see if the approach reduces mother to child infection of HIV and the number of unwanted pregnancies.

While in Ntchisi district we are taking the tried and tested women’s groups approach to help women make decisions about their own healthcare and we are supporting local communities to address their most important priorities for keeping mothers and babies safe.

Ministry of Health’s Perinatal Care Project

The Comic Relief funded ‘Improving the health of pregnant women and children in Malawi’ project was implemented in Ntcheu District from 2010-2014. The project sought to improve the health and reduce mortality of women and children in the District through a range of community based interventions in a project population of approximately 80,000 people from 144 villages. It also implemented a range of facility-based interventions to improve the quality of care in 14 health facilities.

The end of the project evaluation showed 94% of women were delivering in health facilities, the percentage of newborns getting postnatal care within 2 weeks of birth had increased from 35% to 95% and the percentage of women attending ante-natal care in the first three months of pregnancy doubled. Women’s knowledge of good childcare practices increased from 12% to 96%.

Adventist Health Services

We are sharing our women’s groups expertise for a brand new USAID funded project which is encouraging women in Blantyre, Dedza, Rumphi and Mzimba districts to use contraception through involvement in community groups and distributing supplies in their communities.


Our approach to advocacy to improve the maternal and child health services in Malawi is three-fold. We will build the capacity of our local partners to advocate at national and district level, we will empower communities to make their voices heard at grassroots level and we will share learning from the project with decision-makers.

We will work with our local partners to improve their advocacy capacity and develop a comprehensive, evidence based advocacy strategy.

We will also train volunteers and community health workers to press for change within communities, at local health facilities and with policy and decision-makers.

In addition we will:

  • Share what we learn from the project with the people who make decisions at local, district and national levels.
  • Support district decision-makers to improve resources and policies for maternal, newborn and child health.

Strengthening local health services

To improve the health services in our project areas we will:

  • Set up and train Quality Improvements teams in health facilities in Nkhotakota and Ntchisi districts.
  • Train data clerks to improve data collection and analysis so that decisions about local healthcare services can be made on better quality and more robust data.

Read more about Our impact