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Project information

Tackling childbirth sepsis in Malawi

Sepsis, when infection overwhelms & shuts down vital organs, is one of the biggest killers of mothers worldwide; but it's preventable. We work with clinicians, midwives, communities and policy makers in Malawi to improve early recognition and treatment of sepsis so that fewer mothers and babies die

March 2018 - March 2019

Charity information: Ammalife

Ammalife logo
  • Need


    Sepsis is a life-threatening condition triggered by infection. Childbirth is a hazardous time for women and babies but many deaths are preventable. Mothers are dying because systems are not in place to identify and treat sepsis quickly and effectively. We know from other countries that survival can be doubled if the right care is delivered early. Together with our colleagues in Malawi, we have devised FAST-M, a care package to tackle sepsis; now we need to implement it for the poorest mothers.


    We have supported the development and piloting of a care package to combat life-threatening sepsis in Malawi. We are now seeking to continue to support this system in our three pilot hospitals and 12 health centres. This project will continue to provide the training and resources to better identify and treat sepsis, ultimately saving mothers’ and their babies' lives. Based on our data, 15,400 lives mothers and their newborns will be the beneficiaries of this project.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To continue to test and improve the maternal sepsis care package in 15 rural hospitals and clinics.


    » Supply thermometers, fetal pinnards, blood pressure monitors and other medical equipment to the sites to support them to assess and diagnose sepsis.
    » Contribute towards the production costs of MEOWs charts which enable health workers to detect the early warning signs of sepsis in mothers.

    What success will look like

    We will systematically collect data in order to monitor clinical outcomes. We will share our findings with colleagues so that knowledge can be shared and more lives can be saved.

    Aim 2

    To provide educational resources for all health workers who treat sepsis in our 15 rural sites.


    » On-site training and education in delivery of sepsis care package for all those working in the 15 sites in collaboration with our early adopters.
    » To develop and share clinical audit mechanisms so that staff may see how their practice may improve women and children's health outcomes.

    What success will look like

    Success will be positive feedback from staff in Malawi who have used the resources and made suggestions for improving them in their local context.

  • Impact


    If the maternal sepsis care package is shown to be effective in reducing maternal mortality then it will be adopted by health workers throughout Malawi. Ammalife's partner organisation, MAOCO (Malawi Association of Obstetric Clinical Officers) offers a way to disseminate good practice widely through peer-to-peer learning. Better practice and the right tools will mean more mothers and babies survive childbirth.


    Risk 1
    Not enough healthcare workers and peer educators in Malawi to work in our fifteen sites.
    Health workers have shown that they are keen to improve outcomes and are resourceful in using even small amounts of support to do this.

    Risk 2
    That audit will be sidelined by overstretched staff.
    MAOCO members have been using audit for 5 years and have case studies to show its effectiveness. They will offer support to colleagues.


    Ammalife has an excellent track record of providing timely, informative and accurate feedback to donors. We will provide regular feedback on our progress. Information will also be published on our website www.ammalife.org and via our social media www.facebook.com/ammalife, www.twitter.com/ammalife.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £12,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £6,000 Activity 1 To supply 3 rural hospitals & 12 satellite clinics with basic clinical monitoring equipment
      £2,000 Activity 2 On-site training and education in delivery of sepsis care package by early adopters in Malawi
      £2,200 Activity 3 To provide educational resources for all staff at 15 sites
      £1,200 Activity 4 Peer to peer training in clinical audit
      £600 Activity 5 Printing & paper costs for audit materials

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Ammalife regular giving (standing orders from individuals) £6,000 Guaranteed
  • Background


    We plan to test and improve the maternal sepsis care package in three hospitals and 12 health centres in Malawi, a country where there are currently 510 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. From our base at Ammalife’s Academic Department at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, we will work closely with the global maternal health research group based at the University of Birmingham which has an active research network of academics and experts and local teams based in Malawi.


    Mothers who attend Dowa, Kabudula & Mitundu Hospitals and their satellite health centres will have access to an effective care package which has the potential to save their lives. Few babies survive the deaths of their mothers in such contexts which is why saving mothers will also save their children. Health professionals on the ground will also benefit as they will be equipped with robust and practical guidance on which to base their care of women with pregnancy-related sepsis.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Ammalife is a specialist, research-driven organisation committed to tackling obstacles to good maternal health in the poorest parts of the world. We work closely with the global maternal health research group based at the University of Birmingham which has an active research network of academics and local teams based in Malawi. Dr David Lissauer, a member of Ammalife’s Executive Board with experience of running a major global maternal sepsis trial, is leading this project.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Professor Arri Coomarasamy

    Consultant Gynaecologist. Leads global maternal health portfolio at the School of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Birmingham (UoB).

    Dr David Lissauer

    Clinical lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UoB. Leads a major global maternal health trial to reduce miscarriage surgery-related infection.


Will buy a thermometer - a basic tool to monitor a sick mother

“I think it will be fantastic. At the moment the challenges are the absence of clear guidance and delayed initiation of treatment. The care package is a critical development and because it has involved people on the ground, they feel part of the process and will own it and make sure it happens.”

Thomson Chirwa, President of the Malawian Association of Obstetric Clinical Officers (MAOCO)