23% of Zim women give birth without skilled assistance

While the Ministry of Health and Child advises women to give birth at health facilities, demographic data shows that 23 percent of mothers deliver at homes without skilled assistance, in the process putting their lives at risk.

A recent study by Amnesty International says such women are at a high risk of suffering complications that include Obstetric fistula, which can primarily be prevented by ensuring expecting mothers have access to skilled birth assistance and emergency obstetric care.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) links obstetric fistula directly to obstructed labour, which occurs when the foetus does not progress as it needs to along the birth canal. Obstructed labour is a major cause of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and is estimated to account for 8% of maternal deaths globally, but as much as 70% of all maternal deaths in developing countries.

“Skilled medical care, usually a caesarean delivery, is needed to prevent an obstructed labour from resulting in maternal death or obstetric fistula,” says the report.

“Although Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care advises women to give birth in health facilities, demographic data indicates that nearly one quarter (23%) of women give birth without skilled assistance. Covid-19 has worsened the situation. The Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe142 reports that they received reports of hospitals’ unwillingness to attend to pregnant women due to inadequate personal protective equipment, compelling women to resort to home deliveries.”

When Zimbabwe’s MMR peaked in 2010, the report says delays in seeking and accessing health care accounted for two-thirds of maternal deaths.

“Medical experts explained to Amnesty International that cases of obstetric fistula would be expected to have occurred during this period,” says the report.

“However, subsequent and ongoing challenges within the health system continue to undermine access to quality obstetric care and increase the risk of new cases occurring.

Amnesty International’s research suggests that women and girls face significant barriers to accessing timely health care during labour, increasing their risk of experiencing obstetric fistula.”

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