Opuwo — The Kazetjindire Angelika Muharukua maternity waiting home at Opuwo is a dream come true for the women of Kunene, who were used to travelling long distances to give birth, or otherwise had to do so at home. But the maternity shelter will now allow expectant mothers to move closer to the Opuwo hospital, where they can live while receiving professional care as they wait for the delivery of the child.
"Our expectation is that this maternity waiting room will make it easier for pregnant women in the region to access care at the time of delivery and after birth for themselves and their newborns," said the WHO country representative, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses.
The Kunene Region has the lowest proportion of pregnant women delivering in health facilities, according to the 2013 Demographic and Health survey.
Additionally, the region is presented with unique and compounding challenges that make access to health care impossible for some rural communities. Extreme poverty, long distances to healthcare facilities and low health-seeking behaviours are some of the challenges.
The construction of the N$5 million shelter, which is a stone's throw from the Opuwo hospital, was made possible by the European Union through the Programme for Accelerating the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PARMaCM), the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
"Only a year ago this seemed like an impossible dream," said Sagoe-Moses. The shelter was financially supported through PARMaCM, which funding came to an end in February 2017.
This would have a positive impact on the lives of the women, children and community in the region, Sagoe-Moses added. "The house is here. The goodwill is here. Please, all those from the hospital be kind to the women and help them to deliver a healthy future for Namibia," said Jana Hybaskova, the ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to Namibia. Jennely Matundu, a relative of the late governor Muharukua, said the family was consulted on the decision to name the maternity waiting home after Muharukua.
She also expressed gratitude that the shelter was named after Muharukua, saying: "It is a pity that she is not here today to witness her dream come true."
Muharukwa was disturbed by how women delivered 'on the streets of Opuwo' because they could not make it to the hospital on time.
That motivated her to avail her house in Opuwo to expecting mothers who travelled from far to camp at her house well in advance while waiting to give birth, explained Matundu.
"She allowed most expectant mothers to camp in her yard to avoid the scandal of giving birth on the streets. Until today there are people at her house waiting for their delivery date," stated Matundu.
The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, was relieved that the shelter is finally a reality. The idea of constructing a maternity waiting shelter in Kunene has been long coming, noted the minister.
Haufiku commended the construction company for completing the building in a relatively short time. The first patients are expected to use the facility by next week.
PARMaCM was primarily implemented in the health districts of Okongo, Outapi, Opuwo, Katima Mulilo, Gobabis and Keetmanshoop.