Mat North Sees Rise of Home Births During Lockdown

Pregnant women risk life-changing childbirth-related injuries such as obstetric fistula during home deliveries. Image by UNFPA

BY GEORGINA SOKO | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | AUG 28, 2022

In Matabeleland North, lack of access to maternal health care services is forcing women to deliver at home despite the risks involved.

BINGA (The Citizen Bulletin) — Luyando Mugande heaves a sigh of relief after she is admitted into the mother’s waiting shelter at Siansundu clinic in Binga, Matabeleland North.

Mugande, who lives some 40km away, did not want to risk having a home delivery like her sister.

“My sister suffered permanent injuries after complications when she delivered at home during the tight lockdowns,” Mugande says.

Margarete Mbele, 84 years, says she is one of the remaining seniors who have assisted many women over the years to deliver safely at home particularly during the tight lockdown restrictions.

“This is something that we have always practiced in our African culture; there is nothing peculiar there,” Mbele says.

“This COVID-19 virus that they said killed a lot of people also saw me assisting a lot of mothers to give birth since there were no vehicles to transport pregnant women to the health care centres.”

According to Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) 2022 Rural Livelihoods Assessment Report, while nationally, 75% of the rural households had access to health related information physical access was still a huge hindrance with some walking distances of over 30km to get to the nearest clinic.

The ZimVAC report says the central government was partnering with various key stakeholders and communities to construct clinics and health posts throughout the country to reduce distances travelled by communities to access health care services.

“These women who come to us for help are disadvantaged. Most don’t have the money to travel to clinics while some from the remotest parts of Binga have no access to either a clinic or public transport,” Mbele adds.

Mbele however admits there are risks involved in home deliveries.

Pregnant women risk life-changing childbirth-related injuries, including obstetric fistula during home deliveries.

Obstetric fistula is a curable and preventable condition that the World Health Organisation describes as the most devastating birth injury.

Obstetric fistula leaves women leaking urine, faeces or both, and often leads to chronic medical problems. Image by Health Times

In most cases, it is caused by lengthy or obstructed labor without access to emergency services.

Although the Ministry of Health and Child Care advises women to give birth in health facilities, lack of access to maternal health care services remains a challenge.

A number of women who spoke to The Citizen Bulletin expressed their frustrations of having to travel long distances to access maternal health care services.

Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Officer, Dr Admire Kuretu says they witnessed an increase of 60 percent in home deliveries in the province as restrictions on traveling during the lockdown periods took effect.

“Pregnant women delivered at home due to transport challenges because our province is a rural one therefore services such as Antenatal Care, labour delivery, PostNatal Care were affected,” Kuretu says.

This, he argues, exposes pregnant women to risks of maternal mortality and morbidity.

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Due to lockdown restrictions, home deliveries were 60% higher compared to previous year, Kuretu says.

While multi-donor pooled funding mechanisms that have been assisting in strengthening health systems particularly in rural areas through construction of mothers’ waiting shelters, a proportion of community deliveries has also been growing steadily over the years.

A study by Munyaradzi Kenneth Dodzo and Marvelous Mhloyi titled 'Home is best: Why women in rural Zimbabwe deliver in the community' shows that women preferred community deliveries.

*Edited by Lizwe Sebatha | Fact Checked & Proofread by Melody Mpande | Reviewed & Commissioned by Divine Dube.

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Public health, Matabeleland North, Binga, COVID-19

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