19 May 2013

Zimbabwe: 'Teenage Girls Dying of Pregnancy Complications'

Adolescent girls aged between 15 and 19 constitute a quarter of the 960 women that die as a result of pregnancy-related complications in Zimbabwe, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has said.

UNFPA country representative, Basile Tambashe said there is need to place a special focus on young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights.

She was speaking during the handover of 63 ambulances worth US$2,8 million to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, which were donated by the European Union, as part of efforts to improve maternal health services.

"I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the need to also place a special focus on young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights," she said. "According to the results of an analysis carried out by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, about a quarter of maternal deaths were adolescent girls aged between 15 and 19."

Tambashe added that addressing the adolescent girl's sexual reproductive health needs could greatly contribute to reducing maternal mortality ratio in Zimbabwe.

According to the recently published 2010-11 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS), Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in Zimbabwe has more than doubled since 1990. In 1994, according to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey maternal mortality ratio was 283 per 100 000 live births and in 2005/6 it was estimated at 555 deaths per 100 000 live births and in 2010/11 it was estimated at 960 deaths per live births.

Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Douglas Mombeshora said at least 10 women are dying every day from pregnancy-related complications.

Mombeshora said with at least 960 deaths per 100 000 live births, Zimbabwe's maternal mortality was much higher than the sub-Saharan and global averages. He said lack of skilled attendance at delivery declined from 73% in 1999 to 69% in 2006 and further declined to 66% in 2011.

"Institutional delivery remained constant at around 68% for the past decade, but declined to 65% in 2011.According to the 2007 Zimbabwe Maternal and Perinatal Mortality Study, home deliveries constitute 28% of births. Home deliveries are three times more common in rural areas at 42% than in urban areas at 14%," Mombeshora said.

He said the risk of maternal death increased significantly when women delivered outside institutions, when the delivery requires surgical intervention, or is carried out by non-skilled persons.

EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell Ariccia pledged the bloc's commitment to continue supporting the health sector in Zimbabwe.

No user fees for mothers and children

Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Henry Madzorera, said maternal and child service provision was being affected by a number of challenges which include shortage of transport for emergency obstetric and neonatal care services and reduced budget allocations.

The government of Zimbabwe last month scrapped user fees in rural clinics for pregnant and lactating women and children under five years, as efforts to reduce high maternal mortality ratio scale up.

The United Nations' Millennium development goal number five seeks to reduce by three quarters, maternal health in countries by 2015, a target Zimbabwe is unlikely to meet.

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