By Blessings Chidakwa and Sallomy Matare
At least four stillbirths and one maternal death have been recorded at Harare City Council’s polyclinics, as the city is dragging its feet on the provision of proper power back-up facilities, which has forced its nurses to use cellphone torches during delivery.
The incidences occurred between January and July this year.
The situation is particularly dire during load shedding periods, amid indications that some expecting mothers have been asked to buy candles.
Mbare, Hatcliffe and Kuwadzana are the most affected areas, as their solar systems sometimes fail to provide adequate lighting, especially in early morning, particularly on cloudy days.
In an interview yesterday, the local authority’s Health Services director Dr Prosper Chonzi said from January to July this year, he knew of four cases of stillbirths and four maternal mortality cases, but there could be many.
“We have solar back-ups and generators, but unfortunately these are no longer back-ups, but they have become the main source, hence around 3am batteries would be flat, and that is when most deliveries usually take place. So, sometimes people end up using torches, cellphones and candles.
“In Mbare, a baby was born with mucus blocking its nasal passage, and since there was no electricity, the mucus could not be sucked out, leading to death of the baby.
“In another case, a baby was born with the umbilical cord tied around the neck and due to lack of lighting, the umbilical cord could not be untied on time.
“There are also four maternal mortality cases recorded, but three of them were already dead when they arrived at our clinics, while one passed away while giving birth.”
A nurse at a Mbare maternity clinic, who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation, said the situation was unbearable.
“We have noticed with great concern that at our clinic that the solar system is no longer reliable, forcing us to use torches, candles and phone torches during baby deliveries. Not only is this not safe for us, but very risky to the expecting mothers,” said the source.
“We have also been experiencing stillbirths over the past months. We actually tell the expecting mothers to bring their own candles since we are incapacitated.”