Distressed mothers plead for improved maternity facilities

Harrowing conditions experienced during pregnancy and child-birth have prompted mothers from rural areas to urge authorities to upgrade the woefully inadequate maternity provisions for expecting women. BRENNA MATENDERE reports from Shurugwi South.

Maunganidze, left, mingle with mothers at an advocacy meeting for better maternity facilities held in Ward 3 recently.
Maunganidze, left, mingle with mothers at an advocacy meeting for better maternity facilities held in Ward 3 recently.

Edith Marecha, 60, almost died while giving birth to her first born at Banga clinic in Shurugwi South’s ward 3 village in 1983. What made her situation dire was the fact that she had been forced to walk about 21 km to the clinic on the day she went into labour, having been unable to raise the bus fare to transport her.

Absence of health specialists qualified to deliver her baby surgically and lack of adequate medical supplies and facilities further jeopardised her situation. Fortunately, a well-wisher organised for her to be transferred to Gweru General Hospital where she received the medical care she urgently needed.

Fast forward to 2015, the challenges Marecha faced still exist, continuing to endanger the lives of mothers and their new-borns in the district, among whom are Marecha’s own daughters. Banga’s Ward 3 has a population of about 6 000 families.

Urgent solution

Expectant mothers have to rely on the single clinic which receives about 100 maternity patients each month from the 34 villages that are part of the District’s Ward 3. The most affected are those who live about 25 km away from villages such as Jiri, Nhinhi, Chicha, Chiriya and Dhlodhlo.

In separate interviews, women pleaded for authorities to deal with the problem, saying the present situation was putting them and their unborn babies in danger. The mothers pointed out that a waiting shelter at the clinic, owned by Tongogara Rural District Council, was the most urgent of their needs.

“What we want is a mothers’ waiting shelter at the clinic. At least if a mother can wait at the clinic say for about two weeks before getting into the labour ward, it will reduce the burden we are faced with today. We have prayed for this need – but more than 30 years has gone by and still help has not been forthcoming,” said Marecha.

Beullah Chiminya, 29, who is heavily pregnant and looking forward to giving birth, said she will only relax when she is holding her baby. “I live about 23 km from the clinic. My husband is a man of limited means and will not be able to send me to any better institution as I am also unemployed.

“My worry is that when I go into labour, if I fail to get quick transport to the clinic, my life and that of my unborn baby may be in danger. This happened to my younger sister two years ago, and sadly both she and her baby died after she had a premature delivery while on the way to the clinic without any health worker to help,” she said.

Nonhlanhla Khumalo, 31, another expectant mother, echoed the same sentiments.

“What pains us is that in other wards, there exist mothers’ waiting shelters at clinics and appropriate medical expertise. We are the only ward without those critical amenities. So what we are saying is that provide us with the same facilities,” she said.

Primrose Marufu, 27, who recently gave birth at the clinic under difficult circumstances, urged the donor community to assist. “We are faced with a serious humanitarian crisis here as women. Prior to giving birth to my child at Banga clinic, we were faced with serious lack of medication and basic injections. So we are imploring NGOs to assist us. In other wards they have helped the people there with construction of a mothers’ waiting shelter and provision of medical facilities. Surely our plight should receive equal consideration?” she pleaded

Unfulfilled hopes

During the stint of former health minister Timothy Stamps, the government made a countrywide enquiry into the state of the health sector. The initiative was meant to address the inequalities in the health service that had existed prior to 1980, in urban and rural areas.

Zimbabwe then adopted the concept of Equity in Health and Primary Health Care for all. Initially, this resulted in the narrowing of the gap between health provision in rural and urban areas. However, there have been clear indications of growing inequities in health provision and health care as a result mainly of Economic Structural Adjustment Policies of 1991–1995, and health policy changes.

The comatose economy has also had a negative impact on critical health provision such as maternity services in rural areas as evidenced by the woes of mothers in Shurugwi South’s Ward 3.

Shurugwi District Health officer Margaret Maunganidz3 confirmed that the maternity facilities and services in ward 3 leave a lot to be desired. “We are aware of the plight of the women especially those that are expectant. We are trying hard to address the matter but obviously lack of funds is a big challenge. We however hope that in future when the funds and resources are acquired, things can improve not only at the Banga Clinic but throughout Ward 3,” she said.

Headman Alford Mufiri, chairman of the Banga village chieftainship and member of the Tongogara Community Share Ownership Trust which received $10 million some years back from Unki Mine under the controversial indigenisation programme, said a facility of $25 000 was allocated in 2011 towards the construction of a mothers’ waiting shelter at Banga clinic among other amenities.

But they are still in the process of kick-starting the construction. “The Trust is aware of the problem faced by the expectant mothers in ward 3. We were allocated $25 000 to construct a mothers’ waiting shelter at the clinic as well as developing other facilities that are crucial in health delivery. We are in the process of finding a contractor. It is our hope that things will start to shape up at the clinic so that the plight of the mothers can improve,” he said.

Contact info

People/organisations wishing to help can contact Kathy Manase, Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre programme manager: cell

0779 455 525 or email [email protected] or skype kathy.manase

or visit No. 38 Harvey Brown Avenue, Milton Park, Harare.

Kathy Manase is the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre programme manager.

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Post published in: Gender Equality

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