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Mutoko women maternity nightmare


Six women, three of them clad in maternity wear, stage a play at Nyamuzuwe Rural Health Centre, where Stanbic Bank is donating $100 000 for the construction of a mothers’ waiting home to buttress the maternity services being offered by the medical facility.


One would expect the play to exhibit a message of appreciation, but it is, in fact, carrying undertones of inadequacy and the need for more maternity facilities within the area.

The play recounts the horrors women face in trying to access maternity facilities within their locality, a clarion call to authorities to heed their cry.
Women in Mutoko district are risking giving birth at home without any prior recommended check-ups along the duration of the pregnancies because of lack of adequate maternal facilities.

Six villages around the business centre have for decades solely relied on this modest facility to meet their maternity needs.

The vicinity of the health centre to some of the villages is such many expecting mothers have to walk over 10km to access these critical facilities, failure of which some of them resort to the traditional means of giving birth under the watch of elderly women known as vananyamukuta.

“This clinic is serving people from Nyamukondiwa, Tsigadzomba, Musavi, Chitsike, Chinomona and Nyamuzuwe. It’s either you come here or you just risk giving birth at home with the assistance of the elders. I have been coming here for check-ups and I must say we are happy because this mothers waiting home is going to even attract more mothers to opt for giving birth under proper medical supervision,” a young expecting mother, who identified herself as Vimbai, said.

Available statistics reveal that 22% of the women in the district are giving birth at home without the recommended medical supervision standards.

On this day in Mutoko, Health ministry reproductive health deputy director Margaret Nyandoro unpacks the challenges faced by women that end up under extreme pressure to give birth at home despite the risky nature of such an enterprise.

“There are three delays that sometimes kill parents and one of the delays is knowledge, for someone to know that I now am carrying something that can potentially kill me,” she said.

“The second things is access, like how many hours it takes to get to the hospital where the service is being offered and the third is once I get there, is the quality of care adequate enough. Twenty-two percent of women in this area are giving birth at home and we are saying we do not allow this.”

According to the Inter-Censal Demographic Survey of 2017, the overall maternal mortality ratio for the country is 525 deaths per every 100 000 live births and this is partly emanating from the lack of adequate maternal facilities which can offer prenatal and postnatal care.

For women in Nyamuzuwe, the risk of falling victim to maternal mortality is quite high because Nyamuzuwe Rural Health Centre is incapacitated to handle complicated cases which normally arise from first pregnancies and they are referred to Mutoko Hospital which is a distant 18km away.

“I am a mother of three and for my fist child we used a scotchcart to travel the 18km journey to Mutoko centre because they say they do not handle first pregnancies here, but I think I was fortunate because everything went smoothly. Some of us can’t travel that far and end up giving birth at home,” 38-year-old Yeukai Mapisanunga said.

To some local women, the idea of giving birth at any maternity facility is yet to be demystified, as religious practices have forced them to cling on giving birth at home.

The play earlier alluded to is trying to unpack the risks of giving birth at home and encourage the local women to visit the local clinic for prenatal and postnatal care but equally at the same time pleading for more facilities within the area.

One of the actors, Sarah Zisengu (41), is herself, a mother whose only attempt at giving birth was marred by challenges, where she claims that after being referred to Mutoko hospital, she had to undergo a Caesarean section, a process which, if attempted at home, could have been a disaster for her and the baby.

“I am part of the cast in this play, motivated by my own horror experience in which we are calling on the authorities to heed the plight of the local women who are in dire need of more maternal facilities. I am also trying to send the message to other women that it is not safe at all to give birth at home using the traditional practices because this is dangerous and someone can easily lose her life in the process,” Zisengu told NewsDay.

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