ZIMBABWE: Maternal Mortality on the Increase

Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Sunday News
Southern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding
Human Rights

NEGLIGENCE on the part of nursing staff and lack of adequate resources in hospitals has resulted in an increase in the maternal mortality rate, a Government official has said.

In an interview with Sunday News, Deputy Prime Minister Ms Thokozani Khupe said Government was working on addressing the serious increase in the maternal mortality rate in the country.

“This year the rate has increased compared to that of 2005 and as Government we are embarking on a programme to resuscitate the health delivery system in the country so that it can be conducive for all pregnant women,” she said.
As a measure of ensuring that health is accessible to all, Ms Khupe said Government was planning on scrapping user fees for pregnant women.

“Government is planning on scrapping user fees for all pregnant women so that every woman can afford and is able to get all the healthcare necessary. We have consulted with the Ministry of Finance that they set aside a substantial amount of money from the oncoming budget which should cater for all the expenses incurred during delivery,” she said.

Last week the Deputy Prime Minister held a meeting with the mayors, councillors and town clerks of different cities and some of them agreed to scrap the user fees.

“Last week there was a meeting with the council officials from different cities and some of them agreed to scrap user fees and we are still to see whether they will fulfil this but so far Harare hospital has reduced user fees for pregnant women from $50 to $30,'' she said.

She urged hospitals and other health institutions which offer antenatal care to stop charging user fees to pregnant women and find ways to supplement their funds.

“All health institutions should not consider whether a pregnant woman has or has not paid user fees for them to receive medical attention. Instead they should find other ways of raising the money to cater for all expenses as these women would be performing a national duty when they give birth,” she said.

Rural pregnant women have been on the suffering edge and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare has been trying to address the challenge.

“I am working in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child welfare in making sure that rural hospitals become conducive for all pregnant women. We need to address the issue of transportation and there is need for us to buy ambulances that will ferry these women to their respective hospitals as most of them live 40km away from clinics and hospitals," Ms Khupe said.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the issue of improved communication systems also needed to be addressed.

“There is need of easily accessible telephones for these people so that communication can be fast and convenient.

“We want to make sure that enough blood is available in each and every hospital to cater for emergency cases. Many cases have been reported of women dying due to loss of blood failing to transfuse more blood and we want to avoid such cases.

“We are also planning to build shelter for expecting mother near hospitals in rural areas.

“Building shelter near hospital facilities will decrease the maternal mortality rate. It would be easier for a pregnant woman to be attended to by medical staff,'' she said.

Ms Khupe said the environment also contributed to an increased rate of maternal mortality.

“The environment is a major contributory factor to an increased maternal mortality rate. A hospital is an engine room and everyone who goes to the hospitals expects to get good services and to have his or her health improved. But at the moment our people go to get frustration which is what we want to rectify,'' she said.

She also reiterated of the need for Government to address the issue of giving the health staff incentives so that they can feel motivated.

“Incentivising the health fraternity will go a long way in addressing problems faced in hospitals as this will motivate the staff,'' she said.

In June Zimbabwe launched the country version for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) under the theme "Zimbabwe cares, no woman should die while giving birth.

Zimbabwe's public health status has revealed that the country has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), at least eight women die every day while giving birth in Zimbabwe.