As a result of the ongoing industrial strike within the health department, the cost and lack of medical facilities in most health institutions pregnant women have been left stranded causing them to give birth at home under risky supervision of untrained midwives.
By Michelle Chifamba
Representatives of women’s organisations are calling on the government to respect women’s sexual reproductive health rights and ensure their human dignity.
The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Zimbabwe said the prevailing maternal health conditions have led women to resort to home deliveries which are risky for both mother and child as there are many complications associated with child-birth.
Co-ordinator for the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Zimbabwe, Dr Christina Mudokwenyu- Rawdon said home deliveries which many expecting mothers are now resorting to out of desperation are very risky especially when there is no health facility to transfer the woman for proper medical check-up.
“A woman may develop complications at child-birth and start bleeding, without a safe health institution the woman may bleed to death or the baby may develop complications and may also die.”
According to the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Zimbabwe, the policy of the Ministry of Health is for a woman to give birth in a safe environment, home deliveries are associated with risks and this impacts on the rate of infant mortality among new born.
Dr Mudokwenyu- Rawdon said it shows that the country’s health system is failing women as it fails to provide for them and their unborn children.
“The government needs to go into dialogue with the health professionals that will bring the health system back to normal. We the government to resuscitate the health system and support the sexual reproductive health rights that promote a safe environment for pregnant women. It is the responsibility of the government to provide such a service to women,” she said.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care, Zimbabwe National Maternal and Neonatal Health Road Map 2007-2015 states that in 2000 Zimbabwe was among the 189 member states at the Millennium Summit that adopted the Millennium Declaration with interlinked goals and a number of targets to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters and to reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate between 1990 and 2015.
Representatives of women organisations and female legislatures are the country is witnessing a retrogression in terms of fighting against maternal and infant mortality deaths, defeating the gains it had made over the years.
Proportion Representation Member of Parliament, Tatenda Mavetera (Zanu PF) said Zimbabwe is a signatory to various Conventions that promote human rights and dignity and there is need to adhere to them.
“It is sad as a country that we are failing in some instances to promote maternal health. Women are no longer able to access maternal health services from public health institutions. The collapse in the healthcare system will result in high infant mortality and an increase in maternal deaths,” she said.
“As a result of the collapsed health service delivery, women are going to suffer from unforeseen diseases because they will resort to unskilled midwives and unsafe environments to give birth.”
“The government need to prioritise the issues of women. As women parliamentarians we need to push for a gender sensitive budget making sure that the funds are allocated prioritising maternal health, water and sanitation as these issues affect women,” Honourable Mavetera said.
Citizens Health Watch notes that the deteriorating health conditions in the country’s health institutions shows that Zimbabwe has lost track towards fighting maternal deaths and it is unbearable as women are going through so much pain.
“The issue of a country that is failing to provide maternal health care services to expecting mothers and the conditions that women are being made to go through has reduced our womanhood and dignity and there seems to be no way out of the situation as there is no political will from the government,” said Citizens Health Watch Trustee, Fungisai Dube.
Proportional Representation Member of Parliament, Paurina Mpariwa (MDC) said the government should aim higher in terms of providing health care service delivery especially to pregnant women who are giving birth to the future generations.
“It is sad that the county is celebrating home deliveries administered by untrained health professionals. At this age we are supposed to be adapting to modern technology that promote healthy deliveries. The aspiring mothers should be given better services instead of being accustomed to the worst experiences while giving birth,” Honourable Mpariwa said.