In Zambia, many women live miles from the closest health facility. They have few, if any, affordable and safe transportation options, making it difficult to receive the care they need during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.
To increase access to health facilities, Zambian women often stay at mothers’ shelters. These are residences near health facilities where pregnant women can stay until they go into labor and immediately after childbirth. Unfortunately, these shelters are often in poor condition, provide minimal services, and are not financially sustainable.
Through the Mothers’ Shelter Alliance, run-down structures have been transformed into community-owned enterprises offering quality services to pregnant women and new mothers. The Alliance has built or renovated 24 shelters with support from local communities, providing a safe place to stay. While women await childbirth, they also engage in income-generating activities to help sustain the shelters’ operations.
To date, more than 2,000 women have stayed in the shelters. Local communities have also helped establish over 20 micro-businesses that generate enough revenue to cover half of the shelters’ operating costs.
“The community in Nyimba has embraced the mothers’ shelter as a necessity in their community. It is unprecedented. I would not think that both men and women would be able to embrace the idea, but… the response has been overwhelming.”