Every year, there are an estimated 608,000 births, 1,800 maternal deaths and 17,000 newborn deaths in Zambia1.
While Zambia has had modest improvements in maternal health since 1990, a woman's lifetime risk of maternal death – the probability that a 15-year-old girl will eventually die from a maternal cause – is 1 in 592, dozens of times greater than that of a high-income country like Norway or the United States.
Maternal and newborn deaths are largely preventable and are indicative of inaccessible and poor-quality health care facilities, inadequacies of the health system, and low demand for and utilization of maternal and newborn health services. For example, although 94 percent of Zambian women have at least one antenatal care visit, only 47 percent give birth in the presence of a skilled health worker3.
In September 2011, the Ministry of Health chose the four districts of Mansa, Kalomo, Lundazi and Nyimba to pilot the Saving Mothers, Giving Life effort. They were selected because of their strong district leadership and commitment of the local government, the existing United States government platforms in each district, and demonstrated need for intensified maternal health programs. Saving Mothers, Giving Life is rapidly implementing the Maternal and Newborn Health Roadmap (2007-2014) outlined by the Zambian Government, and supporting advocacy efforts through the government's Campaign to Accelerate the Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa– Zambia (CARMMA- Z). These plans build upon the existing PEPFAR and maternal and child health structures and experience.
In the spring of 2014, Saving Mothers, Giving Life announced an expansion into 12 additional districts in Zambia (see map for geographical details). As part of this expansion, the Initiative is also enhancing its focus in a range of areas of implementation. It is:
- Placing an added emphasis on newborn healthcare by focusing on improvements in intrapartum care, including the use of antenatal corticosteroids, neonatal resuscitation, essential newborn care, the management of low-birth-weight babies and deaths tracking.
- Implementing and utilizing the maternal/perinatal death surveillance and response system
- Supporting local health workers and officials to collect, analyze and use data to improve service use and performance
- Working with government and local facilities to improve infrastructure, equipment and the supply chain for essential medicines and supplies
- Testing and scaling financially sustainable models of maternity waiting homes near target health facilities
- Engaging the Zambian government to enhance onsite mentoring and training of health workers
- Countdown to 2015: Maternal, Newborn & Child Survival. "Fulfilling the Health Agenda for Women and Children: The 2014 Report." Accessed August 5, 2014. (http://www.countdown2015mnch.org/reports-and-articles/2014-report).