The Health and Child Care ministry has partnered apostolic sects in Mashonaland Central province in a bid to encourage them to embrace modern healthcare services to reduce cases of maternal deaths among sect members.

Addressing journalists during a tour of the province on Monday, provincial medical director Clemence Tshuma said Mashonaland Central was making strides in eliminating maternal deaths among mostly members of the apostolic sects.

Tshuma said the province had recorded eight maternal deaths this year, compared to over 20 during the same period last year.

“There are a number of things besides mentorship that have enabled us to achieve this. We are also having maternal mortality review meetings,” Tshuma said.

“We always work with apostolic sects and last time, we talked about how we have managed to persuade some of them to open health facilities at their shrines.

“Basically, what we have done is, instead of taking a confrontational approach, we have decided to look at what we have in common and our differences.”

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Apostolic sects have been known to shun clinics and hospitals due to religious beliefs.

Reports indicate that maternal deaths are high in the sects owing to several factors, including the conditions under which they give birth as well as that deliveries are conducted by unskilled personnel.

“One thing we have in common with most of these religious sites is that of deliveries that we have been talking about,” Tshuma said.

“We as health workers want to make sure that there are safe deliveries in their shrines.”

Tshuma said they were driven by the goal that no woman should die while giving birth.

He said they managed to convince one apostolic sect to make use of professional nurses to conduct deliveries.

“They realised that it was a good idea and now they have two nurses who are conducting deliveries and doing other things, but we are focusing on deliveries,” he said. “They are happy and now we are planning to do the same thing with other sects.”

Maternal mortality in Zimbabwe is 363 per 100 000 live births, according to the preliminary results of the 2022 Housing and Population Census.