Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Women’s Health Advisor Kara Blackburn says it is tragic women continue to die in childbirth, when there should be provision for emergency obstetric care for pregnant women to curb the high maternal mortality rate.
In a statement to mark the International Women’s Day, which is celebrated every year on March 8, Blackburn said the impact of quality care for pregnant women could not be over-estimated.
“It is an ongoing tragedy that we are still seeing so many women die in childbirth when we know the provision of quality care at the time of delivery can have a direct impact,” said Blackburn.
“We must always remind ourselves that a maternal death is an avoidable death.
“We know that 15% of all pregnancies worldwide will face a life-threatening complication,” said Blackburn.
In Zimbabwe, HIV and Aids and unaffordable user fees for antenatal care remain some of the major factors affecting maternal mortality.
Head of Mission for MSF in Zimbabwe, Mari Carmen Viñoles, said HIV-positive mothers were more susceptible to infection because of their weakened immune system.
“HIV and Aids are the leading causes of disease and death of mothers in the country,” she said.
“This is particularly concerning when there are user fees in place for antenatal consultations, deliveries and referrals, making it unaffordable for many women to access these — often life-saving — services in public health clinics and district hospitals.”
According to the United Nations Population Fund, the maternal mortality ratio in Zimbabwe has worsened significantly over the past 20 years.
At least eight women die every day while giving birth.
A critical shortage of midwives in the country has also been cited as contributory factor to the high maternal mortality ratio. About 60% of midwife posts in Zimbabwe are vacant.