THE rocky, bumpy and makeshift roads, describing Zimbabwe’s road network, have made life difficult for hundreds of expecting mothers like Mavis Makoshori from Chiropa Village in Hurungwe, who has temporarily relocated from her home and moved closer to a distant local hospital.
Many pregnant women in Chiropa village are forced to temporarily relocate from their homes to be closer to the hospital, due to the poor road network that has made it impossible for public transporters to ply the route.
“I had to leave my family to live with a relative when my pregnancy was in its sixth month. I always had complications because of high blood pressure, so I could not afford to commute every now and again because of the distances involved,” Makoshori, who lives 63km from Chidamoyo Mission Hospital, said.
Other expecting mothers from surrounding areas such as Kapfunde, Zvarai and Chimusimbe have to endure walking more than 20km to the nearest health centre.
Emelda Mukumba said she had to rent a room at the nearby shops.
“I come from Chivende and it is faraway from here. I had to temporarily relocate because I could not constantly walk here for check-ups,” she said.
Investigations by NewsDay revealed that some pregnant women opted for home deliveries because of the complicated situation.
Village head, Knight Chigara, said traditional midwives were active in his area because most women were delivering at home.
“It is very difficult for expecting mothers to go to the health facility. People end up giving birth at home using the traditional midwives. Recently, there was a woman who died giving birth because she opted for a home delivery,” he said.
Maternal mortality has increased since 1980 due to poor health facilities. In 1980 the country had a low maternal mortality rate of just 90 per 100 000 live births. However, in 1994 the figure shot up to 253 per 100 000 live births.
The mortality rate continues to increase, with statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care showing that maternal deaths in the country increased from 555 in 2005 to 725 per every 100 000 births in 2009.
According to the 2012 National Census Report, the maternal mortality ratio in 2012 was 525 per 100 000 live births. Health experts say Zimbabwe is losing eight women a day to deaths caused by pregnancy complications.
Maternal mortality is the death of a pregnant woman or within 42 days of delivery or termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management. It, however, should not be from accidental or incidental causes.
While Zimbabwe is struggling to improve the health sector, Women Global Health said “more women are receiving antenatal care.
In developing regions, antenatal care increased from 63% in 1990 to 81% in 2011,” read the report in part.
“However, the journal notes that only half of women in developing regions receive the recommended amount of healthcare they need.”
Nursing staff at Chidamoyo Mission Hospital have sometimes, been forced to conduct deliveries of babies under candlelight amid revelations that the area has been without electricity for the past month.
Yemurai Gumbojena, Health for Mothers Trust director, an organisation operating in Hurungwe, said the area has failed to register improvement in health delivery, hence, many mothers are facing challenges in Mashonaland West.
“There are a few clinics here. We have Kapfunde and Chinhere clinics, which do not offer any meaningful health assistance except giving pain relief medication. Many expecting mothers have to go to Chidamoyo Mission Hospital or Hurungwe District Hospital, which are very far from most communities.
“The maternal mortality rate has remained high because of poor transport system in the district,” she said.
World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed concern over Zimbabwe’s “unacceptably high” maternal mortality rate, which currently stands at 614 deaths per 100 000 live births.
“Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) for Zimbabwe has declined from 960 deaths per 100 000 live births in 2010 to 614 deaths per 100 000 live births in 2014,” WHO said in a report.
“This is commendable progress, but the ratio still remains unacceptably high. Zimbabwe’s MDG [Millenium Development Goals] target was to reduce MMR to 71 deaths per 100 000 live births this year.”
Although the government in 2012 scrapped maternity user fees, which were believed to be the major contributing factor to the country’s high mortality rate, the figures have remained high.
Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa has admitted the government was still battling high maternal mortality, saying Zimbabwe failed to achieve its MDG targets.
“We are now faced with an increase in non-communicable diseases burden, which, in solidarity with other health partners, we need to deal with. We have not yet managed to rein in the maternal deaths due to preventable causes,” he said.
In its latest report on Zimbabwe, WHO cited delays in seeking healthcare, reaching the health facility and delay in receiving expeditious and effective care at the health facility as some of the contributing factors.
“Social determinants of health, which include poor public transport system and clarity on application of user fees are also major problems although it is government’s policy not to charge user fees, for maternity services.”