MORE MAMaZ on UK television for Comic Relief

A grant from Comic Relief funds a programme to reduce maternal mortality in Zambia by improving rural access to services

On Monday 2nd March, the MORE MAMaZ programme was showcased on national television during BBC Two’s Let’s Play Darts for Comic Relief, as part of the build-up to Comic Relief, taking place on Friday 13th March, 2015.

Funding of £1.83 million from Comic Relief to the MORE MAMaZ programme (Mobilising Access to Maternal Health Services in Zambia) will provide vital access to maternal health services in Zambia. Implemented by a consortium of four partners – Transaid, Health Partners International (HPI) and Zambian organisations Development Data and Disacare, MORE MAMaZ builds on the successful Mobilizing Access to Maternal Health Services in Zambia (MAMaZ) programme, which was implemented between 2010-2013 with funding from UK aid. The programme aims to increase access to and use of maternal and newborn health services among remote rural communities by supporting government partners to scale up a community engagement approach which is of proven effectiveness.

While many maternal and newborn health programmes focus on improving supply-side factors and facility-based interventions, few effectively address the multiple barriers at household and community levels. Hence there is limited evidence on how to intervene effectively on the ‘demand-side’. The original MAMaZ programme, implemented by HPI in partnership with Transaid, Development Data and Disacare, identified effective ways to stimulate demand for maternal and newborn health care services among poor rural communities and captured the impact of these interventions in a research component. Experience and lessons learned from MAMaZ have been incorporated into the design of MORE MAMaZ. Communities will be mobilised by trained community volunteers to address the range of barriers that prevent timely uptake of health services. Various community systems will be established to tackle access, affordability, awareness and other barriers. These include community transport schemes, savings schemes, food banks, and a system of mother’s helpers. Innovative participatory training methods developed by Health Partners International are being used to train the volunteers and build sustainable capacity to tackle high maternal and newborn death rates.

MORE MAMaZ is operational in five districts (Chama, Mkushi, Mongu, Serenje and Chitambo). The programme will work with District Health Management Teams and Provincial health staff to scale up the demand-side interventions to cover entire districts. A national level component to the programme, will support the Ministry of Community Development and Mother and Child Health to scale up at national level, promoting the integrated community engagement approach to as many districts as possible. The programme aims to match or even surpass the 27% increase in skilled birth attendance rates that were recorded in the MAMaZ districts and which are attributable to the work of the programme.

MORE MAMaZ consortium partner Disacare is responsible for building over 100 bicycle ambulances using a locally appropriate design which is easy to maintain using local spare parts and capacity. Community training and sensitisation is also being provided by the Disacare team. MORE MAMaZ will also use ox-carts in some areas as a low cost but effective means of transport that will enable pregnant women and newborns to access essential health services.

MORE MAMaZ has a strong learning component and consortium partner Development Data brings a wealth of expertise in monitoring and evaluation, and will have a key role in supporting implementation of the programme’s community monitoring system.

Health Partners International developed the integrated community engagement approach used in MAMaZ and now MORE MAMaZ and the innovative training approaches that have proved so effective at creating sustainable local capacity to tackle maternal and newborn health barriers.

Caroline Barber, Transaid’s Acting Chief Executive, says: “The huge rise in the number of births being attended by skilled professionals made the MAMaZ programme one of the most successful that Transaid and its consortium partners Health Partners International, Development Data and Discare have been involved in. We are delighted Comic Relief recognised this and have given us the means to continue this valuable work”.

Cathy Green, HPI’s Senior Technical Adviser to MORE MAMaZ says: “We’re incredibly proud of our achievements with the original MAMaZ programme where skilled birth attendance rates increased by 27 percent in our intervention districts. We hope to be even more successful with MORE MAMaZ, and to leave behind sustainable capacity to continue the work once the programme has ended.”

Follow this link to watch the video