ALTHOUGH Zimbabwe, on paper, appears to have made great strides in reducing maternal deaths, a recent report by Auditor-General Mildred Chiri paints a gloomy picture on that front as it effectively trashes the so-called improvements in the country’s maternal mortality rate.
Effectively, her report tells us that we continue to lose lives unnecessarily because of government’s skewed policies.
According to Chiri, official statistics availed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care cannot be relied upon because of the shoddy manner the data was captured.
She clearly points to the fact that the statistics do not factor in deaths records at private health institutions, homes and some health facilities in remote parts of the country.
Data given to her office indicate that maternal deaths in Zimbabwe were now at 522 deaths per year by 2016 as compared to 790 deaths per year recorded in 2013.
This should spur us into overdrive. Government needs to strengthen its community outreach programmes, training and recruitment of more midwives and address the issue of maternity user fees still being demanded by some health facilities.
Chiri’s report noted that although the Ministry of Health stated that pregnant women should obtain maternal healthcare for free, it was established that some health facilities were still levying maternity fees ranging from $25 to $30, especially in urban areas.
The long distances travelled by some communities to access healthcare facilities, shortage of drugs and other material required at childbirth are also some of the factors that have continued to keep our maternal mortality high.
More still, our government needs to plan smarter immunisation campaigns and encourage breast-feeding.
Research shows that women who have breast-fed are less likely to develop non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular illnesses, breast cancer and type 2 diabetes. This is a fight we cannot afford to lose in this day and age of modern technology. The need to upscale the health budget cannot be overemphasised.
It’s no use hiding behind global economic recession as having compromised the ability of aid agencies to chip in with funding. We just need to put our priorities right. Period!