Zimbabwe: Zvishavane Community to Construct Maternity Waiting Shelter

The Zvishavane community has engaged government and development partners to help it fund the construction of a maternity waiting shelter at the local district hospital to curb increasing cases of maternal deaths.

Official statistics indicate that at least 12 women die of pregnancy-related illnesses every day in Zimbabwe.

Zvishavane Community Working Group on Health chairman, Obert Sithole said the community decided to engage government after noticing that an increasing number of women were dying in the district.

He said it was unacceptable that women should continue dying when facilities like the waiting shelters had proved to be effective in stemming maternal deaths.

"As a community, we are saying our pregnant women should have a waiting shelter to address challenges like transport," said Sithole. "We are approaching the rainy season and so the situation becomes most dire."

He said although preliminary meetings have been held with government representatives and stakeholders, nothing concrete has been concluded.

"We will keep pushing until we are heard. Somewhere out there are people, organisations with resources and they will reach out to us," said Sithole.

Zvishavane District Hospital caters for close to 100 000 people around the district and the absence of a functional maternity home has put many expecting women in a quandary as many live far away from the health centre.

An expecting mother, Melody Mugwagwa said because she lived far away from the hospital, she would move in with some distant relatives who stay closer to the health facility.

"My husband is in South Africa so when the time comes, I will not have anyone to take me to the hospital which is about 35km from my village," she said.

Mugwagwa is one of the many women in the district who supported the establishment of a waiting shelter at Zvishavane hospital.

"I hope when I deliver my third child in two years' time, there will be a maternity home," said Mugwagwa.

Provincial Medical Officer for Midlands (PMD), Milton Chemhuru could not be reached for comment.

The waiting homes are mostly meant for expectant mothers who stay far away from health facilities and those with high-risk pregnancies.

Many pregnant women delay getting to health facilities as they face severe transport problems.

In rural areas, some are taken to hospital in scorch carts or wheel barrows, which take long and are very uncomfortable, especially for complicated cases.

Currently, Zimbabwe has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Africa with 960 deaths per 100 000 live births. The country aims to reduce the deaths to 174 per 100 000 by 2015.

The government has recently come out strong on revamping the concept of maternity waiting homes which over the years have not been adequately supported.

The United Nationas Population Fund (UNFPA) has already started to resuscitate rural waiting homes. Already, 66 out the 105 targeted rural health facilities have benefitted.

A UNFPA representative, Tamisayi Chinhengo said the programme had received US$13 million from the European Union (EU) and these funds would go a long way in capacitating the waiting homes.

The programme is meant to strengthen the waiting shelters targeting 63 districts hospitals and training of 800 health workers providing emergency childbirth care.

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