Group’s work saves women from death in childbirth

A young pregnant woman in rural Nyamaropa in Nyanga district, Caroline Mangondoza prepares to give birth at home with her mother and her husband Joseph Mandisodza.

Taisekwa Musharu, working with the Kubereka Ishungu group to save the lives of mothers and babies.
Taisekwa Musharu, working with the Kubereka Ishungu group to save the lives of mothers and babies.

Giving birth the traditional way is still a common experience for most expectant rural mothers, especially in remote areas. But, the baby is big and the young mother may face complications during delivery. Her mother, sensing danger, recommends that Caroline give birth at a health facility about 15km away.

Caroline’s immediate relatives, however, disagree and insist that she delivers at home. The family consults Taisekwa Musharu – the leader of a group of professional midwives – who then threatens to report the case to the authorities at the local clinic.

Musharu, who leads the six-member Kubereka Ishungu group finally persuades the family by explaining risk to the woman.

Later that day, the young mother gives birth to a healthy baby boy in the local clinic.

Without the work of the group, this true story could have had a very different and tragic ending.

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.

In an interview with The Zimbabwean, Musharu said the aim of the group was to reduce deaths among women and adolescents in rural Nyanga.

“We want a holistic approach to women’s reproductive health that involves decision-makers from throughout the rural community,” she said.

Based in Nyamaropa, a farming area that was famous for potato and apple farming before the land invasions in 2008, Kubereka Ishungu provides clinical training and equipment to nurses, traditional birth assistants and volunteer health workers.

“We have gone into partnership and we work strategically with the traditional birth assistants and traditional healers, who are held in high esteem in the communities, enlisting them in the effort to disseminate accurate medical information about maternal care,” said Musharu.

With a Global Fund for Women grant and Health Transition Fund, Kubereka Ishungu held a summit for Women’s and Children’s Health in the area last week. Particpants met health officials from government and village leaders, who then agreed to support reproductive health talks during village meetings.

She added: “We also directly reach out to families to dispel many common myths about the dangers of contraception, dietary restrictions for pregnant women, and prenatal care.”

She added that the group offered community workshops on family planning, HIV and sexually transmitted infection prevention in conjunction with the ministry of health and partners like the United Nations Population Fund and the World Health Organization.

Men in the community have also been taking part in these workshops.

Moffat Tonhorai, a traditional leader said: “Men can support their wives and families and share knowledge with other men.”

He added: “The story of this young woman with the risky delivery ended happily thanks to the informed responses of Kubereka Ishungu.”

Caroline herself said: “I want to encourage more women to embark on these initiatives as they would help many women in rural areas. I want to thank them for sharing their knowledge about health issues.”

Musharu urged the government and its health partners to work on sustainable health solutions in rural areas of the country to educate entire communities to act in the best interest of women before, during and after childbirth.

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