Intergenerational impacts of maternal mortality: Qualitative findings from rural Malawi

Type Journal Article - Reproductive Health
Title Intergenerational impacts of maternal mortality: Qualitative findings from rural Malawi
Volume 12
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers S1
Maternal mortality, although largely preventable, remains unacceptably high in developing countries such as Malawi and creates a number of intergenerational impacts. Few studies have investigated the far-reaching impacts of maternal death beyond infant survival. This study demonstrates the short- and long-term impacts of maternal death on children, families, and the community in order to raise awareness of the true costs of maternal mortality and poor maternal health care in Neno, a rural and remote district in Malawi.

Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted to assess the impact of maternal mortality on child, family, and community well-being. We conducted 20 key informant interviews, 20 stakeholder interviews, and six sex-stratified focus group discussions in the seven health centers that cover the district. Transcripts were translated, coded, and analyzed in NVivo 10.

Participants noted a number of far-reaching impacts on orphaned children, their new caretakers, and extended families following a maternal death. Female relatives typically took on caregiving responsibilities for orphaned children, regardless of the accompanying financial hardship and frequent lack of familial or governmental support. Maternal death exacerbated children’s vulnerabilities to long-term health and social impacts related to nutrition, education, employment, early partnership, pregnancy, and caretaking. Impacts were particularly salient for female children who were often forced to take on the majority of the household responsibilities. Participants cited a number of barriers to accessing quality child health care or support services, and many were unaware of programming available to assist them in raising orphaned children or how to access these services.

In order to both reduce preventable maternal mortality and diminish the impacts on children, extended families, and communities, our findings highlight the importance of financing and implementing universal access to emergency obstetric and neonatal care, and contraception, as well as social protection programs, including among remote populations.

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