EXPECTING mothers and girl children are often forgotten during times of disasters such as tropical cyclones and floods, and they often end up bearing the worst brunt of the catastrophes.
BY FARAI MATIASHE
Most aid agencies’ primary focus will be on rolling out food handouts and shelter to the victims.
The immediate needs of pregnant mothers and girl children are usually eclipsed in the whole matrix, leaving them vulnerable to various forms of abuse.
This was seen when Cyclone Idai pounded the eastern parts of Manicaland province, including Chimanimani and Chipinge, leaving a trail of destruction and claiming the lives of many in March this year.
Expectant mothers had some of their preparation kits washed away, while some were left widowed after their husbands went missing or were killed.
Factoring the current economic environment in the country, most women in the affected areas are neither employed nor engaged in any meaningful income generating projects to sustain their livelihoods.
While donations trickled in from well-wishers across the world, very few spared a thought for the unborn child.
Most pregnant women who were affected by Cyclone Idai are housed in camps set up by relief organisations such as Red Cross, Red Crescent, United Kingdom Aid and United Nations International Children Emergency Fund.
Due to deteriorating health standards at most health centres in the country, expecting mothers are expected to bring cotton wool, methylated spirit and preparation for the child.
With the current economic crisis and unemployment rate at over 90%, most women cannot afford the requirements, worse for those in Cyclone Idai-hit areas.
According to United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), about 67 500 women of reproductive age in Chimanimani and Chipinge are in need of sexual and reproductive health services; 1 250 were pregnant.
In the three months following the tropical storm`s destruction, UNFPA anticipated 3 750 live births, among which 560 women were expected to experience pregnancy and birth-related complications.
However, Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), with the support from Y-Care International brought back the smiles on the faces of expecting mothers after they handed over hampers of baby preparation sets to them. The hampers included baby clothes, wrapping towels, buckets, bathing dishes, nappies, washing soap, petroleum jelly, cotton wool for the mother and re-usable pads.
An expecting mother at Aboratum Camp in Ngangu, Chimanimani, Kuda Ndima (36), could not hide her joy after receiving the preparation set hamper.
She lost two children and her husband during the cyclone and her only hope is now vested in the unborn child she is expecting to deliver in the next few weeks.
“I cannot hide my joy. This is a surprise. I had no money to purchase this preparation set for my child. I virtually lost everything during the disaster and I had no money to buy another set,” she said with tears of joy.
“I would like to express my gratitude to YMCA and Y Care for their timely intervention. In few weeks, I will be delivering my baby with adequate needs.”
Another beneficiary, Joyline Chatanga (24), said God`s time is the best.
“We are only receiving food aid but we were stressed about the needs of the expected child. There is no meaningful income generating projects in this camp. We are just seated all day and it is difficult to be fed like a chicken. We thank these people for thinking like humans. I am so delighted and I am now stress free as you know stress is not good for pregnant mothers like me,” Chatanga said while packing her delivery baby preparation set.
Bennies Sithole (30) from Kondo Camp, who received goods on behalf of his expectant wife, Stella Dirikwi, 19, said: “I was not expecting from anyone. This is a major surprise because at the moment, I am just holed here in the camp with nothing to do. There is no employment to talk of in these areas because people are still recovering from the effects of Cyclone Idai.
Sithole said without the support of YMCA, he had no other plans on how he was going to raise money to buy preparation materials for the unborn child.
“It was difficult for me to buy preparation for the child as you can see that our source of livelihood, which was agriculture, was destroyed and we were left with nothing to sustain our families. May God bless these people for sparing a thought for the unborn child,” Sithole said while receiving the preparation set.
Yvonne Mutume, 26, from Aboratum Camp, said the donation would give her a peace of mind as it came during her darkest hour.
“This assistance will forever be pitched in my mind because it came just on the right time. I am very delighted with this development,” Mutume said.
Village head for Pfumo village, which falls under Chief Muusha, Nickson Pfumo, expressed his gratitude towards the gesture, saying the support, would go a long way in rebuilding the traumatised society.
“People can easily rebuild their lives if they receive maximum help and support. I am delighted that pregnant women and children are being assisted to rebuild their lives. Without hope and support, we will perish,” Pfumo said.
Besides assisting the expectant mothers, YMCA also handed over stationery to affected students in camps and Machongwe areas, which included satchels, counter books, exercise books, pens and pencils.
Women and girls in both Machongwe areas and camps also received re-usable sanitary pads.
YMCA Zimbabwe youth chairperson Elton Jim said there was a holistic approach to assist the victims of Cyclone Idai.
“We firmly believe and are fully persuaded that to use a holistic approach is not just distributing food handouts. We are looking to something that is more sustainable and our primary focus is women and young children because they are the future of our country.
“We have also seen it fit to remember pregnant women by handing over some preparation set for the unborn child. Despite Cyclone Idai which ravaged these areas, we firmly believe that there should be special attention to maternity needs to ensure decent delivery and reduce risk of post natal mortality,” Jimu said.
He said health was also a focus for their organisation and as such they were giving re-usable sanitary pads.
“Currently, we are at a point where young girls here will be sewing the pads and sell to other communities outside the Cyclone Idai-hit areas so that they can raise income for other needs. Currently, we have a rural branch in Tanda, Rusape we will be operating from there as well.
“This is a critical project for now, looking at our economic situation. Most women cannot afford sanitary pads and it is imperative that we produce re-usable sanitary pads. We are supporting the psycho-social support programme to help the people make sure they heal and continue with their lives,” Jimu said.
Sanitary pads in the country are trading from ZWL$4,50 to ZWL$8, depending with brands, making the essential product going beyond the reach of many.
YMCA national programmes co-ordinator, Francis Lembani, said they will continue to look at gaps in the Cyclone Idai hit areas and assist those in need.
“Maternal health, child welfare and education are our key areas. We believe these are key indicators of the country`s economic growth,” Lembani said.
According to government reports, Cyclone Idai destroyed more than 2 500 houses and displaced 4 000 people.