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Kasungu Maternity Waiting Village
Malawi’s maternal and neonatal mortality rates are some of the direst in Africa. Eight-five percent of Malawians live in rural settings where a lack of infrastructure, transportation, and finances prevent expectant mothers from accessing maternal health facilities and the professional care they need. These problems are compounded by extreme poverty, cultural barriers, and a lack of knowledge and information about reproductive health. One in thirty-four women Malawian women die during pregnancy or delivery. As part of her Presidential Initiative on Safe Motherhood which launched in 2012, President Joyce Banda aimed to make childbirth safe in her country. Part of the initiative was a commitment to build 150 maternity waiting homes strategically placed near health centers or hospitals where mothers could stay in in their last 6 weeks of pregnancy to be attended by skilled health workers until delivery. Unfortunately, the first prototype the Malawian government produced was an unsafe barracks-like structure that lacked natural lighting, proper ventilation, privacy, or decent hygienic standards. Because these unwelcoming structures only provided the bare minimum, they were underutilized and failed to achieve desired results. In close collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s government architect, UNC-Malawi, and the Gates Foundation, MASS Design Group developed a new prototype which offers a safe, comfortable, and dignified environment for expectant mothers. MASS’s design takes its inspiration from the vernacular layout of family compounds in Malawian villages. Intimate five-bed units are arranged in clusters of three rooms with a washroom and kitchen, supporting 15 mothers. This “village” features not only sufficient daylighting, ventilation, and hygienic conditions, but a set of familiar community spaces for the women. Everyday life in Malawi takes place largely out of doors, so the maternity waiting village is arranged around courtyards and covered outdoor spaces which accommodate daily activities including educational programming about post-natal care or opportunities to sell traditional handicraft. At night, outdoor spaces accommodate the family members and attendants who travel with each expectant mother. Designed around replicable modules and built of locally-made CSEB (compressed stabilized earth blocks), the facility can be adapted to other sites across the country. The Maternity Waiting Village in Kasungu is about creating a well-designed environment that creates dignified experiences so that more people are likely to use them and get the care they need.
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