ZIMBABWE: More Women Die in Childbirth

Saturday, October 30, 2010
Southern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding
Human Rights

THE number of women who die in childbirth in the country has doubled in the past decade because of the poor state of the health delivery system, a senior government official has said.

The Minister of Health and Child Welfare Henry Madzorera said maternal mortality ratio (MMR) has doubled in the last decade from 283 deaths in 1994 to 725 last year.

"In Zimbabwe nearly two-thirds of these maternal deaths which occur before, during and after delivery are due to infection, bleeding, obstructed labour and hypertension," said Madzorera.

He added that most women are dying due to lack of proper information and adequate equipment.

"Women who deliver in institutions with access to skilled attendance have a chance to survive these potentially lethal threats whilst a third of women in Zimbabwe are delivering at home while another third deliver without skilled labour," he said.

Madzorera said Zimbabwe was now off-course in meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing MMR by 75% by 2015.

The government, with support from United Nation Children's Fund (Unicef), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank recently launched the health sector investment case after the realisation that most women were dying while giving birth.

The move is aimed at reviving the country's health sector through adequate investment.

The Japanese government recently donated essential life-saving maternal and neo-natal equipment worth US$1,9 million.

Equipment donated included emergency obstetric and neonatal equipment for 62 district hospitals, teaching and learning material for 15 midwifery schools and furniture for 40 maternity waiting homes.

The Japanese ambassador to Zimbabwe Koichi Morita said he believed the equipment would make a difference in maternal health.

"We hope the equipment will contribute to the attainment of MDG 4 and 5 respectively, reduction of child mortality and improve maternal health," he said.

The country needs at least US$700 million in the next three years to revive its health system and reduce under-five and maternal mortality.

The investment will see the country back on track to achieve its health-related MDGs.

Speaking at the launch Unicef representative in Zimbabwe Dr Peter Salama said the progress that the country made in the early years of independence has been reversed.

"Good progress made in the '80s and early 1990s has been all but reversed. . .under five mortality has increased by around 20% since 1990," he said.

"Maternal mortality has doubled, which means today and everyday in Zimbabwe, 100 children under five die of largely preventable causes and eight women die while giving life."

Salama said the majority of women dying while giving birth were those that are poor, especially living in the rural areas.

"A rich woman in Zimbabwe who is pregnant today has around four times the chance of having effective antenatal, delivery and postnatal care than a poor woman," he said.

Judith Nhira (20) of Uzumba in Mashonaland East province, who was waiting to deliver at Mutoko district hospital, said she had a hard time meeting the expenses.

"My husband had to run around to look for money to transport me as the clinic did not have an ambulance. We are not employed so it was difficult for him to get that US$35 they wanted," she said.

To raise the amount the husband had to sell their only goat.

These economic hardships are resulting in women giving birth with the assistance of unskilled midwives as it is much cheaper. Some pay in the form of chickens.