The tragedy of maternal mortality

Shamiso Yikoniko recently in Karoi
FOR three years, Ms Sophia Sakina’s corpse has lay unclaimed at Harare Central Hospital mortuary.

She had given birth to a girl at Karoi Hospital via Caesarean section, but developed complications and was referred to Harare Central Hospital.

Unfortunately, her life could not be saved.

Her family is yet to claim her body amid claims that the hospital wants $500 to release the corpse.

Ms Peggy Zvavamwe, the Harare Central Hospital CEO, disputes the claims.

“It’s against the law to refuse to release a corpse over an unpaid bill. Although I’m not sure of the circumstances surrounding that case, what could have happened is that the family was told of the outstanding bill and was asked to pay something before taking the corpse. Probably the family promised to come back with a bit of money and never did.”

Sophia’s highlights the many problems associated with maternal mortality.

Maternal mortality is defined by the World Health Organisation as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy.

The maternal mortality rate is the ratio of the number of maternal deaths during a given period per 100 000 live births.

Women in rural areas, where health facilities are not easily accessible, mostly suffer the brunt.

The major causes of maternal mortality are pregnancy-induced hypertension, post-partum haemorrhaging, malaria, puerperal sepsis, obstructed labour, lack of information and unsafe cultural practices.

Factors associated with maternal deaths also include delays in seeking medical attention and in reaching healthcare facilities.

The absence of skilled personnel during child birth, lack of services to provide emergency obstetric care, reproductive health commodities shortages, and weak referral systems also contribute to maternal mortality. Three years after Sophia’s death, her sister Junia Sakina is still traumatised.

“The fact that my sister’s body lies there unclaimed haunts me every day. Government must set aside funds to help those that die when giving birth,” Sakina said.

The late Sophia’s daughter is currently in the care of a Harare children’s home.

Dr Bernard Madzima, the Health and Child Care Ministry’s director for family health said: “Although the maternal mortality rate is dropping, a lot still needs to be done. We are aiming to curb preventable or avoidable maternal deaths which are mainly caused by reporting late to a facility.”

Zimbabwe’s maternal mortality ratio has dropped from over 900 deaths per every 100 000 live births to 614.

The maternal mortality ratio in Mozambique 490, Malawi 460 and Tanzania 460, Zambia 440, Kenya 360, Swaziland 320, South Africa is 300, Namibia 200 and Botswana 160.

Pregnant women are expected to have at least four ante-natal care visits, while fully functional maternity waiting homes should be available.

Government and its partners have come up with various measures that are aimed at reducing maternal mortality in Zimbabwe, including revitalising maternity waiting homes and related facilities, and scrapping user fees for pregnant women.

Traditional leaders have also become involved in the reduction of maternal mortality rate by punishing expectant mothers who give birth at home.

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  • Erica

    Its not always a case of scraping off the maternity fee which is of importance in combating maternal mortality. There are other hidden factors which needs to be addressed. A case in reference is what happened at a Bindura clinic on 14 March 2018. A woman was told kuti mwana aitira tsvina mudumbu. Accordingly, this constitutes an emergency, but because she ddnt have $20 for ambulance to take her to Bindura hospital, the medical stuff had to watch her helplessly. An ambulance even left with one patient to the hospital, but because she ddnt have the money, no one cared.
    Given such a scenario, do you think we can reach Botswana, or even Zambia in the near future?