Malawi President Reverses National Law After Health Reports Highlight Troubles for Pregnant Women

Nov 162010

Following a five-part series in The Nation newspaper about the dire impact of a 2007 law banning local midwives, Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika said women would once again be permitted to use midwives. He also promised to give these traditional birth attendants (TBAs) professional training.

The series was produced by Bobby Kabango, a young reporter working under the guidance of Knight Fellow Edem Djokotoe, a veteran journalist and trainer with extensive experience covering health and poverty issues.

The stories detailed the difficult conditions many women have faced ever since the midwife ban went into effect. Many pregnant women in rural areas had to travel long distances on foot to get to under-staffed, often unsanitary health centers in more urban areas. Some women gave birth on snaked-infested riverbanks on their way to health clinics.

At a press conference days after the series appeared, President Mutharika said the ban was a grave mistake. “We shouldn’t completely stop traditional birth attendants, because their work is very important, but train them to assist us in addressing maternal health challenges,” he said.

Malawi’s Ministry of Health banned midwives in an effort to encourage pregnant women to seek the services of trained medical staff. Now, the ministry will provide training for the midwives starting in early 2011.