HARARE – Zimbabwe is struggling to contain maternal deaths with the ministry of Health and Child Care revealing that at least 242 women died while giving birth in 2017, almost half the number of deaths recorded in 2016.
Observers say the number could be higher since some cases are never reported.
Zimbabwe records between 500 000 and 700 000 pregnancies per year.
“Five maternal deaths were reported during the week ending December 3. Two deaths were reported from Mutare District in Manicaland Province, one in Bindura District, one at Harare Central Hospital and one Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.
“The cumulative figure for maternal deaths is 247,” the ministry of Health and Child Care said in a weekly report on epidemic, prone diseases, deaths and public health events.
In 2016, government recorded that 514 women had died while giving birth. This was a reduction from 656 maternal deaths in 2014, and 575 in 2015.
Although pregnancy is not a disease, it is associated with risks before, during and immediately after birth which if not taken care of can result in maternal death, health experts said.
Despite a decreasing rate in maternal mortality, Zimbabwe still remains one of the countries with the highest incidences.
This is attributed to delays in seeking health care, delays in reaching a health facility and delays in receiving expeditious and effective care at the health facility.
Although it is government policy not to charge user fees for maternity services, some facilities still charge some indirect service fees. Some of the reasons that lead to high mortality among pregnant women according to World Health Organisation include, “religious and traditional objectors to modern medicine, for instance refusal to seek care at the health facilities, refusal of blood transfusion, refusal of modern medicines or surgical procedures, and use of traditional uterine contracting medicines to quicken labour.
Zimbabwe’s maternal death rate currently stands at 614 per 100 000 live births, according to the 2014 United Nations Children’s Fund statistics.
Meanwhile, the ministry of Health and Child Care recorded 1 171 malaria cases and no deaths during the week ending December 2017.
“Of the reported cases, 169 were from the under five years of age. The provinces which reported the highest numbers of malaria cases are Manicaland 522 and Masvingo 312,” it said.