‘Lockdown will not interrupt maternal care’

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Harare City Council health services director Prosper Chonzi has said services such as maternal care would not be interrupted since the COVID-19 situation was still within control.

BY PHYLLIS MBANJE

There had been reports from clinics, such as Mabvuku, that pregnant women were being turned away and advised to come only for delivery or if they have complications.

The women claimed that the staff at the clinic said they were only attending to emergencies.

Pregnant women are supposed to attend antenatal care (ANC) regularly until they give birth.

“Services at the clinics should continue as normal because we are not at all overwhelmed by COVID-19 that we can stop ANC sessions,” Chonzi said.

He also said staff at council clinics had been provided with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).

However, pregnant women, particularly those who go to Mabvuku Clinic insisted that the staff had turned them away.

“They said they were only attending to those with critical issues. Otherwise, the rest of us we should only come for delivery,” said one of the women.

They alleged that there were no more ANC visits, and associated services for pregnant women except births or emergencies.

Fungisayi Dube from the Citizens Health Watch (CHW) said Zimbabwe had made strides in improving maternal health and curbing maternal mortality.

“The challenges posed by COVID-19 call for innovation on provision of critical healthcare like maternity services and not suspending ANC visits completely.
“We cannot just focus on protecting people from coronavirus while leaving them to die from maternal health-related complications,” she said.

Dube noted that the lockdown had led to increased sexual activity and, therefore, provision of sexual reproductive health rights needs should be strengthened.

“Clinics should continue to offer such services. The health institutions are better placed to practise what they preach like social distancing and other measures,” Dube said.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) executive director Natalia Kanem recently said pandemics like COVID-19 must not stop delivery of vital services that preserve the lives and dignity of women and girls.

“During pandemics pregnancies do not stop!” she tweeted.

In Zimbabwe, the UNFPA office will through the Health ministry and under a Chinese/Zimbabwe project procure, deliver and distribute reproductive health medical equipment and medicines to affected health facilities to enhance their capacity to provide care services for pregnant women and newborn babies.