Muzalema Mwanza had always been aware of the health challenges facing her country, Zambia.

It was not until her first pregnancy in 2017, however, that she experienced firsthand all of the challenges that pregnant women in rural areas face when it comes to accessing maternal and child health care.

She noticed that there was hardly any antenatal care provided to pregnant women. Many women were also turned away from giving birth at hospitals as they didn’t have a mandatory list of items needed for childbirth.

This, Mwanza adds, led to pregnant women using "alternative and dangerous methods like using traditional birth attendants, that led to high neonatal and maternal mortality rates."

In Zambia, 470 women out of 100,000 die while giving birth, while 22% of all newborn children die during childbirth. Of these deaths, 30% are caused by complications that are preventable.

In rural areas, lack of basic resources contribute to maternal and child mortality.

"When I was pregnant, I was dismayed to discover that pregnant women in Zambia and most parts of sub-Saharan Africa are required to bring their own birthing materials, and are given a list of mandatory items to bring for their childbirth because the hospital cannot provide them due to broken health care systems," Mwanza told Global Citizen.

The items on the list include sterile gloves, a surgical blade, a bottle of disinfectant, delivery plastic, umbilical cord clips, cotton wool, and sanitary pads. Mwanza had to make 10 shopping trips to get all her supplies. For many rural women, money is also a problem.

"This event helped drive my activism to disrupt the system that allows extreme poverty to exist because most women can’t afford to purchase the items that allow them to give birth from a public clinic," she said.

Read the full article about maternal and childhood deaths by Lerato Mogoatlhe at Global Citizen.