THE global pledge that no woman should die giving life is fast becoming a slogan, particularly in Zimbabwe.
This is because women are still dying before, during and after child birth.
Maternal deaths in the country continue to be a cause for concern with statistics indicating that every day at least nine women die at motherhood. That is totally unacceptable and a sign of a poor health delivery system.
This trend has been consistent for years with stakeholders holding government accountable for the deaths which are largely avoidable if adequate structures are put in place. Rural women are the worst affected because there are fewer health facilities which are largely run by primary care nurses who are mostly unable to deal with serious cases that need specialist doctors.
The high number of unattended births — caused in part by the lack of skilled practitioners is also a huge headache. Most qualified midwives have left the country for greener pastures since the government has dismally failed to pay them and create favourable working conditions.
Then there is the issue of user fees which, according to policy, should be free, but women are still paying and many who cannot afford end up giving birth at home.
That is why birth camps have failed to go away because women end up seeking midwives attendants than attempt to go to a facility that is far away from them, has no medicine and no adequate staff.
Safe motherhood remains a pipe dream for most women who either cannot access the facilities because they live far away from them or there are no resources to cater for their needs.
Other countries have taken it upon themselves to make concerted efforts to advocate and mobilise resources to increase access to quality maternal health services.
In Zimbabwe the matter is left to foreign aid partners who have shouldered the burden for years with little contribution from government.
Although, on average, maternal mortality rate (MMR) has declined from an all-time high of 960 deaths per every 100 000 live births to around 614, the figure is still too high and of concern is that teenage mothers are the worst affected.
It is shameful that there is no solid political will when it comes to the issue of increasing funding for the health sector, in particular maternal health.
Reports that women who have given birth are sleeping on the floor in hospitals is just a sign that someone is not paying attention and providing enough resources for the mothers.
There is now need for government to seriously look into the issue of safe motherhood by availing funds to set up a foolproof system that leaves no woman behind.
Providing mothers’ waiting shelters is a good starting point. This takes away the distance headache as pregnant women are able to stay close to the clinic where they are monitored. Most hospitals had this system, but many of the facilities have collapsed due to lack of funding. Surely, revamping these would not cost as much as constructing from scratch.
It is pitiable that we have to rely on handouts from other countries who care enough about the lives of the mothers and the babies. It is high time government explored other options, including domestic funding, to push the agenda of safe motherhood.