As one approaches Mbuya Gwena’s place of residents in Mbare, one would be hoodwinked to believe its a private hospital located right in the heart of a high density suburb due to the number of people that frequent her in search of labour assistance while other will be visiting to see their relatives that will be waiting for their turn of delivery.
When then one finally gets to the room, desperate pregnant, women of all ages will be lying all over the place waiting for their turn and time for free deliveries. The most disheartening thing about the experience is that that the desperate pregnant women will be lying on the floor with those that would have came in a bit earlier luck to have pieces of mates to lie on, and in most cases, most of them will be naked.
Welcome to Mbuya Gwena’s backyard maternity ward, which the First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa gave thumps up few days ago before she even donated a few goodies to the old lady.
Mbuya Gwena started the backyard maternity ward after the much publicized doctors strike which started some two months ago and subsequently saw the government firing close to 300 hundred doctors, further taking the country’s health delivery system to its knees.
Gogo Gwena averages 100 babies within eight days in her house. Most women from the surroundings have praised her work as she has became an answer to their delivery needs.
Gogo believes helping people deliver is a gift from God and before adding that a man of God, Bishop Mabiza prophesied about her turning her home into a maternity ward.
Between Sunday night and mid-morning on Monday, Mbuya Gwena, who stays a stone’ throw from Edith Opperman maternity clinic, has assisted 17 women.
Despite that she is now experienced in midwifery, she still needs to be at least certified to equip her more with the risks surrounding home deliveries.
However, health experts have expressed concern on the activities happening at Mbuya Gwena’s backyard maternity ward and said it was a health time bomb that was to explode anytime soon.
The experts who include senior nurses from various government hospitals raised concerns over issues to do with child protection from HIV and Hepatitis, the number of still births that have been recorded and transferred to mainly Chitungwiza Central Hospital, complications associated with home deliveries as well as the size of the place as compared to the number of people that now frequent the place for free help in the face of health workers strikes.
“To start with , the place is too small for the number of people that are said to be frequenting the place. There are number of precautionary measures that delivery experts do to prevent the child from things like HIV and Hepatitis, which she cannot do during home delivery. There are complications that usually happen during home deliveries which at the end of the day can kill the mother or the child. All these are a clear indication that what ever she is doing is good but has long term effects health wise,” said one nurse from a local government hospital
.Added the nurse, ” Chitungwiza Central Hospital has recorded a number of complication cases and still births and a number of these pregnant women have indicated that they have been referred from Gogo Gwena’s place.”
Another trained trained midwife from Parirenyatwa who preferred anonymity said that they are many processes that surrounding child birth.
“In cases where the baby shows signs of distress, the baby is in a position other the head first, the mother needs pain relief, the mother has high blood pressure or experiences severe bleeding, a person might need to be transferred to a proper health institution to save the mother and baby or either of them in some cases,” she said.
“More research needs to be done on how she is handling such problems traditionally, does she have antiseptics, how is she disposing the after births, do they account for the babies lost because we are only hearing of success stories?” questioned the nurse.
In an interview with the Director of Family Health in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Bernard Madzima said that the ministry does not encourage these traditional home deliveries.
“The traditional birth attendant who is delivering in Mbare, its not something that the ministry encourages. Our policy is that all deliveries should happen in our health institutions and should be manned by a professional attendant,”
“Unfortunately we have a situation in hospitals , doctors have not been attending patients so it has led to the popularity of ana nyamukuta (traditional midwives). It puts everything at risk in terms of the HIV programmes, immunization, antenatal care and post natal care programme,” said Dr Madzima.
“We are working flat out together with partners to make sure that hospitals and clinics are open. We hope that our doctors will go back to work soon,” added Dr Madzima.
“Mbare is one of the places where water and sanitation are a problem this delivering more that 100 babies in eight days raises questions in terms of how Gogo is managing her hygiene. Its only a matter of time before the time bomb explode.