In Malawi, the word for pregnancy - wacapity – translates to 50/50, since conventional wisdom says there is a 50/50 chance a woman in Malawi will die in childbirth.
To tackle the problem, an innovative program called the Agogo Approach, or Grandparent Approach, puts grandparents to work spreading the word on public health issues. In Malawi, elders are revered for their wisdom, making them ideal messengers.
One participant, Lyton Chawinga, who has six grandchildren, travels house to house talking with pregnant women and expecting fathers, urging them to deliver their babies in hospitals.
"We go to their house," he said. "We show them pictures and tell them what can happen if they give birth at home. That the mother or baby can fall sick or die."
Statistics show that most deaths in labor can be prevented with the help of a skilled birth attendant.
The program, which launched in 2004, is a partnership between the Ekwendeni Church of Central Africa Presbyterian and Save the Children. It was featured in a video by the anti-poverty advocacy group ONE, as part of Living Proof, a showcase of the incredible progress being made in development and global health.
"Death has decreased, diseases has decreased and life has improved," said Chawinga. "I see the fruits of what I teach and I am proud that I am a good teacher."
Over 4,000 women and men have been trained by the Agogo Approach and the results are impressive; one local hospital has seen a 60 precent increase in the number of pregnant women seeking prenatal care.