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Catholic Relief Services Marks 50 Percent Reduction in Maternal Deaths and Expands Maternal and Child Health Project

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, December 7, 2023 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS), with support from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, is proud to announce a 50 percent reduction in maternal mortality rates across 3 district hospitals and 26 health centers. This success demonstrates the efficacy of the Maternal and Child Health Mayi na Mwana I project and leads into the launch of the Mayi na Mwana II project in Zambia.

Mayi na Mwana, which means Mother and Child in Chewa, is a project that addresses the high rates of maternal and child mortality and morbidity in Zambia. Working with communities, healthcare workers, the government, and the Church, the Mayi na Mwana project focuses on increasing access to quality healthcare, promoting healthy behaviors, and strengthening community resilience and participation to bring maternal and child deaths to zero.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust, a global philanthropy that funds holistic programs to help ensure the well-being of children and families in remote communities in sub-Saharan Africa, supported the Mayi na Mwana I project with a grant of nearly $4 million, and is providing $4.5 million in funding for the second phase of the project.

From 2020 to 2023, in the project’s first phase, health workers and volunteers received training to respond to maternity emergencies and provide quality care. These health workers and volunteers handled over 40,000 maternal and child health cases through various channels. The project reached 30 health facilities and their catchment areas in three districts: Katete, Petauke and Sinda. During the first phase, maternal deaths in primary health facilities reduced by 50%, stillbirths were reduced by 30%, while early antenatal care bookings increased from 34 to 47%. Mayi and Mwana provided emergency transport for pregnant women and newborns using Motor Tricycle Ambulances (MMTA) within these districts. In addition, the project improved male participation in maternal and newborn care by ensuring that men constituted about 50 percent of volunteers.

“Mayi and Mwana has impacted our communities and health facilities positively. There have been improved health-seeking practices for Maternal and Newborn Child health which have seen many women reporting early for antenatal care and other MNCH services. Mayi and Mwana has also improved health-seeking practices by providing Motor Tricycle Ambulances for the communities. This has helped improve referral systems in the district. We are happy with the continuation of Mayi and Mwana so that more mothers can be saved,” says Dr. Abel Shawa, Katete District Health Director.

The second phase of the Mayi na Mwana project started in October 2023 and will run until September 2026.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust is committed to helping people live better lives today and creating stronger, healthier futures.  Building resilience is at the core of Helmsley’s grantmaking, and the Trust works with rural communities in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Zambia so that villages and towns have the ability to bend without breaking when a crisis hits.

“Where you live should not determine your access to healthcare or your quality of care, and strengthening the training that healthcare workers have for obstetric emergencies is a critical part of building healthier, more resilient communities,” says Walter Panzirer, Trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “We are encouraged by the success of Mayi na Mwana I and committed to the project’s expansion by supporting Catholic Relief Services’ continued efforts to ensure the health of mothers and newborns in Zambia.”

In its second phase, the Mayi na Mwana project is expanding to cover two additional districts and 20 more health facilities, reaching a total of 50 health facilities. The project will continue to provide emergency transport, train health workers and volunteers, and improve nutrition, mental health, and gender participation for women of reproductive age and their families. The project will also set up care groups, savings groups, and MMTA repair shops to support the project participants and sustain project outcomes.

Moses Chirwa, CRS’ Project Manager for Mayi na Mwana, says, “The Mayi and Mwana project has reached thousands of women in the Eastern Province of Zambia, and healthcare facilities in the project also served more than 3,000 women from Mozambique.. The training and mentorship the project provides to health workers has improved their management of maternity emergencies. In phase one we reduced stillbirths by 30% and maternal deaths by 50%. We look forward to reaching even more women and achieving greater results in Mayi and Mwana II.”

Mayi na Mwana II expands into the Lusangazi and Chipangali districts, both of which have high maternal and perinatal mortality rates and need more trained maternal and childcare health workers. Combined, the two districts have a population of 227,581.




About Catholic Relief Services:

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding.  For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



Helmsley Charitable Trust, Michelle Tsai, mtsai@helmsleytrust.org

Catholic Relief Services, Moses Chirwa, Mayi na Mwana Project Director, +260 777184493, moses.chirwa@crs.org