Improved maternal and neonatal care has been classified as a critical strategy to reduce the number of women and newborns who die every day due to preventable causes.
Globally, approximately 810 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, while about 6700 newborns also die daily and another two million babies are stillborn.
According to the World Health Organisation, the provision of safe and quality care by health professionals could help avoid such deaths and this can be achieved through the engagement of all stakeholders and the adoption of comprehensive health systems and community-based approaches.
Today, Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Patient Safety Day, which is being held under the theme "Safe maternal and newborn care".
This year's campaign becomes even more important considering the significant burden of risks and harm women and newborns are exposed to due to unsafe care, compounded by the disruption of essential health services caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Radiation exposure could be one of the most harmful things for patients, particularly pregnant women.
Prenatal radiation exposure is the exposure of a foetus to radiation, which might occur when a pregnant mother's abdomen is exposed to radiation for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes.
Radiation Protection Authority of Zimbabwe (RPAZ) corporate communications officer, Mr Shingirai Huni, said exposure of pregnant women to radiation could be harmful for both the mother and the child and there is need to protect patients from its effects.
He said the organisation had embraced the WHO's urge to 'Act now for safe and respectful childbirth!' as well as the Government's strategic thrust towards improving the quality of life for citizens.
"In fulfilment of the mandate of protecting people and the environment from harmful effects of radiation, RPAZ recognises the need to ensure protection of patients which includes pregnant patients. The possibility of severe health effects depends on the gestational age of the foetus at the time of exposure and the amount of radiation it is exposed to," said Mr Huni.
"The health consequences can be severe, even at radiation doses considered too low for the mother. The consequences can include stunted growth, deformities, abnormal brain function, or cancer that may develop sometime later in life,.
He said RPAZ had come up with regulations that specify requirements for protection of patients for diagnostic of therapeutic procedures involving the use of radiation.
The requirements also specify justification and optimization of protection for pregnant patients to ensure safety for both the mother and foetus.
"All the strides are crucial in ensuring patient safety which also includes safety of pregnant patients leading to delivery of healthy babies," said Mr Huni.
World Patient Safety day was established in 2019 to enhance global understanding of patient safety, increase public engagement in the safety of health care and promote global actions to enhance patient safety and reduce patient harm.
This year's campaign seeks to raise global awareness on the issues of maternal and newborn safety, particularly during childbirth while engaging multiple stakeholders to adopt effective and innovative strategies to improve maternal and newborn safety.
It will also advocate the adoption of best practices at the point of care to prevent avoidable risks and harm to all women and newborns during childbirth.