Women from high density suburbs continue to bear the brunt of the deteriorating health delivery system in Zimbabwe evidenced by an increase in number of women giving birth without medical supervision as a result of closure of many polyclinics in Harare, following the strike by council nurses and government doctors.
Harare women, who have been flocking to council clinics after doctors at major referral centers downed tools two months ago, have been left with no primary health care alternative care as council nurses went on strike, with pregnant women bearing the brunt as they are not being attended to and their children missing immunisation.
Statistics from Harare City Council show that for the month of September, the number of babies born before arrival at health facilities went up by almost two fold to 209 compared to the same period last year.
Last week, a woman who was registered for prenatal maternity at Mufakose polyclinic delivered outside the clinic gate, after she found the clinic closed and her labour contractions had begun, fortunately the baby and the mother are alive.
“Last week, I witnessed a woman giving birth outside the Mufakose clinic gate after the nurses present announced that they were not working and closed the gate. There was one dedicated nurse, who was helping pregnant women and she was said she had helped more than 10 women by herself,” said Mazviita Mhizha.
Women staying in Kuwadzana, Granary and Warren Park are aggrieved by the situation in the council clinics as they are only left with Kuwadzana 4 Polyclinic, where there is now a stampede as women from various locations are trooping there.
They said the present nurses were only helping those with chronic diseases, who would be collecting their pills, and they are getting overwhelmed as the numbers.
A Warren Park resident, Chipo Soko, also mentioned that the “ordinary people like her cannot afford going to private clinics and private gynecologists as they are expensive and charging in forex”.
Pregnant women are now turning to traditional birth attendants as evidenced by Mbuya Gwena from Mbare, who is reportedly helping women from all over Harare to deliver babies.
According to the latest Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey, an estimated number of 614 women from every 100 000 die giving birth, making it one of the highest mortality rate in the world.
The country’s target is to reduce the number of women who die while giving birth by two thirds, the Health ministry remain guided by the World Health Organisation guidelines, which do not recommend deliveries by traditional birth attendants.
Constantly, the nation budget failed to honor the Abuja declaration, which urges government to commit at least 15% of its budget to health, with the 2020 budget committing only US$686, 9 million to the health industry.
Residents say the government should speed up its negotiations with the fired doctors so as to avoid further loss of lives. They add that government and the council should also prioritise the health sector when doing their budgets to improve the health system so as to accomplish the government’s promises of world-class health facilities.
By Rutendo Bamu