ZIMBABWE loses 2,400 women due to maternal deaths every year, owing to numerous factors ranging from unavailability of resources, health personnel negligence and poverty, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has said.
By Michael Gwarisa in Mutare
Briefing Journalists during the ongoing Sexual Reproductive Health (SRHR) Media Advocacy Workshop in Mutare, UNFPA Reproductive health specialist, Dr Edwin Mpeta said the prevailing maternal death crisis in Zimbabwe should be treated as a national emergency and should be top of the agenda.
“There are a lot of issues that need a little debate these include health financing, health security among others. We need to find a way to put this on the agenda.
“For instance at the moment we are in a cholera outbreak and there has been lot of noise with everyone putting their resources together to avoid further deaths. Now when we come to maternal deaths, we are talking of over 2,400 deaths per year, that’s almost like four jets and we are crashing and equivalent to four jets every year.
“Take for instance a bus carrying 75 passengers’ gets involved in an accident in Zimbabwe, it is declared a national disaster, yet we are crashing an equivalent of four jest every year but there is little noise around the issue,” said Dr Mpeta.
He added that even though the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) has gone down globally between the years 1990 and 2015, for Zimbabwe it has actually increased despite the country having some of the best qualified health personnel and better services compared to some countries in the world.
“If you look at our MMR for 2010 to 2015, we have improved a bit but if you look at the longer trend, we have not done very well. We still have a lot to do. If the 2010-15 trend continues at least we would know we are in the right direction.
“Currently our MMR is around 640 for every 100,000 live births,” Dr Mpeta said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued new guidelines whereby women should have at least eight visits or contacts with a health facility during pregnancy, an increase from the previous four.
“In terms of pregnancy, we have serious complications around 15-25 percent of the pregnancies. The bad thing is that you cannot predict who develops the complication, so it means if you are pregnant you have some risk factors and we can only work with what will be on the ground.
“In terms of our maternal deaths, generally around 75 percent are caused by what we call direct causes which we can manage. So if we manage well our pregnant women we should be able to reduce maternal deaths,” said Dr Mpeta.
He also noted that bleeding was still the leading cause of maternal mortality. However, government recently introduced the free blood user fees initiative for pregnant mothers. This is despite the fact that there has been reports of blood unavailability at government or public health institutions.
30 percent of maternal deaths according to Dr Mpeta are linked to abortions as young women and women in general engage in backyard abortions due to the legal environment which makes it difficult for women to access abortion services without any hindrances.
Issues behind the rise in maternal mortality in Zimbabwe usually referred to as the delays include, delay in seeking health care, delay in reaching health facility, delay in receiving expeditious and effective care at the health facility.