Polygamous marriages making mothers abstain from child health services

Some teenage mothers pose for a photo at Kaishe Community Health Center
FILE: Some teenage mothers pose for a photo at Kaishe Community Health Center

Priority to conjugal duties is making some mothers in polygamous marriages to abstain from attending to outreach child health care services for growth monitoring in Katete District.

This is according to a Plan International Zambia report presented to the District Nutrition Coordinating Committee (DNCC) yesterday.

The report, which highlights the organisation’s third quarter nutrition activities in Katete, states that some mothers preferred attending to their marital needs than the health of their children.

“Some of the reasons advanced by some caregivers in polygamous marriages were that it was their turn to enjoy conjugal rights and that while attending a growth monitoring programme, another wife would attend to the husband,” the report reads in part.

The report has cited communities like Undi to have exhibited high levels of resistance to nutrition programmes such as growth monitoring outreach programmes.

The report says a child suffering from Edema, a severe malnutrition condition, recently died because the mother refused advise to take the baby to the health centre.

Further, the District Public Health Officer Chaonza Banda added that there was a village under Undi Community that had stopped attending any health activities.

Mr Banda added that another Village under Mzime had also stopped attending health activities that had been taken to the area.

According to Mr Banda some women have received threats that they will be banished from the village if the dare attend mother and child care health outreach activities.

He said this was especially observed during the last child health week, when the country recorded a lot of Covid-19 cases.

He added that one of the contributing factors to this was the rumor that there was a vaccine that was created and would be first tested on the African continent.

In reaction, the headmen instructed their people to refuse health services for fear of being injected with the Corona virus.

“And because of this, it affected the turn out and most parents, because of such a rumor, they would rather have their child die from home than being taken for injection which they were told was a Corona Virus injection,” he said.

The Committee hence agreed to engage the traditional leadership on these matters in order to come to array their fears and make them understand that health and nutrition programmes were meant for their own good.

The Committee also agreed to involve the District Child Protection Committee to enforce some laws, as denying children access to health services and nutrition services was infringing on the children rights to health, which is a form of child abuse.


  1. My thoughts too. Some of these organisations are just wasting funding they receive. They just write reports without and achievements to show for it. Are they paid to highlight problems.

  2. These findings are questionable. People in villages are skeptical about NGOs that go to conduct programs especially that have to do with their children. As a result, most DHO conduct such programs during under 5 clinics and response is positive. If you get in touch with the Katete DHO, you’ll find that they don’t such problems. HEPS is usually distributed during the same clinics, just like immunizations. It’s in districts East of Chipata like Lundazi, Chama, Mafinga, Isoka, Nakonde, etc where polygamy is prevalent not Katete. Women in these communities compliment each other, they don’t compete. So the reasons for shunning their programs aren’t as stated. PLAN International must just revisit their strategy and try to work with DHOs

  3. Interesting how this narrative goes to a cliff edge and then balances there without giving insights into what options these polygamous women have. Very typical of hastily assembled NGOs that focus laser-sharp on causes out of context and then engineer support in the hope that some diffuse solution will be applied. Here is my take: educate the women in these polygamous marriages to take each others’ babies to the health centers for attention like under-five care and other non-obligatory health attention. This way you have a healthy polygamous ecosystem. To impugn polygamy itself as causative is faulty and a fallacy on many levels.

  4. This report is confusing. What has conjugal rights got to do with attending to one’s child’s health needs? Do conjugal things take up the whole day and night?

Comments are closed.