Maternal mortality soars

About 10 women die every day of pregnancy related complications in Zimbabwe, three times higher than the global average, the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey says in its latest report.

Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Douglas Mombeshora : rate of maternal deaths “worrying”.
Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Douglas Mombeshora : rate of maternal deaths “worrying”.

The figure is almost 50 percent higher than the Sub-Saharan Africa average.

The latest ZDHS (2010-2011) shows that the country’s maternal mortality ratio is now at 960 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is three times more than the global average of 287.

“While globally there has been a 34 percent decline in the maternal mortality ratio from 1990 to 2008, Zimbabwe has experienced an increase from 283 deaths per 100,000 in 1994 to 960 in 2010-2011,” says the report.

The MMR is the number of pregnancy-related mothers’ deaths per 100,000 live births or the number of women who die due to childbearing, pregnancy or within 42 days of delivery or termination of pregnancy in one year.

The ZDHS noted that infant mortality is now 57 deaths per 1,000 live births and under five years mortality is 84 deaths per 1,000 live births, meaning one in 12 children die before his or her fifth birthday.

The study showed that the leading direct causes of maternal deaths are pregnancy induced hypertension or eclampsia, postpartum haemorrhage, puerperal sepsis, malaria and obstructed labour.

“HIV and AIDS related conditions are the leading indirect cause of deaths and contribute about 25 percent of all maternal deaths,” according to ZMPMS 2007.

The recent ZDHS noted that about two-thirds of births are assisted by a skilled medical provider, which is a decrease of two percent from 68 percent recorded in 2005-2006.

“Thirteen percent of the births are assisted by a traditional birth attendant and another 13 percent by untrained relatives and friends. Three percent are unassisted,” says the report.

About two-thirds of Zimbabwean births occur in health facilities, primarily in public sector facilities. Home births are three times more common in rural areas with 42 percent than in urban areas at 14 percent.

It was noted that only 28 percent of women received a post-natal check-up within two days of delivery as recommended and 57 percent do not have a postnatal check-up at all.

Last week, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare received a major boost to curb the skyrocketing maternal mortality and neonatal death rates when the European Union committed itself to providing 9.9 million Euros meant to revitalise maternity waiting homes and other related services.

In his remarks at the launch of the programme aimed to achieve Millennium Development Goal number five, which seeks to reduce maternal deaths by 75 percent by 2015, in Mhondoro last week, Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Douglas Mombeshora described the rate of maternal deaths as worrying.

According to health experts the risk of neonatal deaths is highest in the first 24 hours after birth where 49 percent of deaths occur. The first 72 hours after birth are also high risk.

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