Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 687–694 | Cite as

Availability, Utilisation and Quality of Basic and Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric Care Services in Malawi

  • Eugene J. Kongnyuy
  • Jan Hofman
  • Grace Mlava
  • Chisale Mhango
  • Nynke van den Broek


Objective To establish a baseline for the availability, utilisation and quality of maternal and neonatal health care services for monitoring and evaluation of a maternal and neonatal morbidity/mortality reduction programme in three districts in the Central Region of Malawi. Methods Survey of all the 73 health facilities (13 hospitals and 60 health centres) that provide maternity services in the three districts (population, 2,812,183). Results There were 1.6 comprehensive emergency obstetric care (CEmOC) facilities per 500,000 population and 0.8 basic emergency obstetric care (BEmOC) facilities per 125,000 population. About 23% of deliveries were conducted in emergency obstetric care (EmOC) facilities and the met need for emergency obstetric complications was 20.7%. The case fatality rate for emergency obstetric complications treated in health facilities was 2.0%. Up to 86.7% of pregnant women attended antenatal clinic at least once and only 12.0% of them attend postnatal clinic at least once. There is a shortage of qualified staff and unequal distribution with more staff in hospitals leaving health centres severely understaffed. Conclusions The total number of CEmOC facilities is adequate but the distribution is unequal, leaving some rural areas with poor access to CEmOC services. There are no functional BEmOC facilities in the three districts. In order to reduce maternal mortality in Malawi and countries with similar socio-economic profile, there is a need to upgrade some health facilities to at least BEmOC level by training staff and providing equipment and supplies.


Emergency obstetric care Maternal and neonatal health care Quality of care UN process indicators Malawi 



We wish acknowledge the Health Foundation for providing financial support for this study. We also thank the staff of all the health facilities and the Health Foundation Consortium staff for the cooperation shown during the data collection phase.

Authors' Contribution

EJK wrote the protocol, collected the data, analysed and interpreted the data, and drafted the first copy and all versions of the manuscript. JH and GM participated in data collection. CM and NVDB reviewed the manuscript for important intellectual content.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eugene J. Kongnyuy
    • 1
  • Jan Hofman
    • 1
  • Grace Mlava
    • 2
  • Chisale Mhango
    • 3
  • Nynke van den Broek
    • 1
  1. 1.Child and Reproductive Health Group, Liverpool School of Tropical MedicineLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.The Health Foundation ConsortiumLilongweMalawi
  3. 3.Reproductive Health Unit, Ministry of HealthLilongweMalawi

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