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Intimate all-formats package: Malawian women forgo prenatal care

Pregnant women queue to see Lucy Mbewe, a traditional birth attendant at her home in Simika Village, Chiradzulu, southern Malawi, Sunday, May 23, 2021. Health officials in Malawi say fewer women are getting prenatal care amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At risk are the developing country's gains on its poor rate of maternal deaths. (AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi)

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AP’s all-format freelance team in Malawi — photographer Thoko Chikondi, correspondent Gregory Gondwe and video journalist Kenneth Jali — reported over several months to tell the important story of women going without prenatal care during the pandemic, undoing progress in improving maternal health in one of the world’s poorest nations.

The trio’s commitment earned them access to birthing rooms, nursing colleges, and, most challengingly, to camera-averse traditional (and officially illegal) midwives to create a visually powerful, character-driven package. The story was anchored by powerful detail — bus fare to the hospital is more expensive than medical care — and brought to life by intimate photos, including a mother and her newborn minutes after giving birth. In a country where hospitals are so bare that women are expected to bring their own razor blades for cutting their babies’ umbilical cords, the AP showed how deepening poverty brought on by the pandemic is further imperiling women’s lives.

The tender, deeply reported package was initiated by Chikondi, and was produced with support from afar by all-formats AP staffers Krista Larson, Janelle Cogan, Carley Petesch, Andy Meldrum, Denis Farrell, Jerome Delay, Natalie Castañeda, Nqobile Ntshangase and Hend Kortam.

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