|Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:57|
Scrapping of maternity fees timely relief to expectant mothers
EVERY time a woman gives birth, she risks her life!The likelihood of bleeding to death in the first two hours after giving birth, although unpublicised, is relatively high.
According to scientists, the process of bleeding after a normal obstetric delivery is termed “post partum haemorrhage’’ and this condition is an “equal opportunity” killer and represents a risk to every pregnant woman, regardless of her status in society, her education, or the presence of obstetric attendants at the birth.
However, delivering in a well-equipped hospital is safer in that should the bleeding occur, the woman will be attended to by trained medical personnel who have various therapeutic options at their disposal.
Infections have also been known to be a cause of the death of babies during birth.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying of pregnancy complications stands at one in 42 and of every 1 000 live births 80 children die before reaching the age of five.
Thousands of women, who cannot afford maternity fees, make do with backyard clinics, which are not equipped or sterilised for antenatal care. This ultimately leads to the high death rate for women giving birth and children being born.
Unemployment and the poor performance of the economy have made it difficult for expecting mothers to make use of Government and council health institutions.
In Bulawayo alone, thousands lost their jobs after 46 companies in the motor industry, 24 in the clothing industry and one pharmacy closed down while some big companies relocated to Harare.
It is in this vein that with effect from today, Government has scrapped maternity fees in all provincial hospitals, central hospitals and council clinics.
Expecting mothers have been paying US$50 at council clinics and US$65 at public hospitals for babies delivered by operation. The bulk of the women who ended up at Government hospitals were those who would have paid $25 to register at their respective council clinics, but experience complications which required them to go to referral hospitals like United Bulawayo Hospitals.
Women in the rural areas struggle to access life-saving maternal and child health care, as they also have to travel long distances. Some of them also rely on agriculture and usually do not have any money as the country has been hit by perennial droughts.
According to the UN, most maternal deaths could be avoided. giving birth is especially risky in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where most women deliver without skilled care and the rural-urban gap in skilled health care during childbirth is narrow.
It is also believed that only one in three rural women in developing regions receive the recommended care during pregnancy, progress in expanding the use of contraceptives by women has slowed and that the use of contraception is lowest among the poorest women and those with no education.
The move to scrap maternity fees therefore comes as timely relief in a country battling high infant and maternal mortality rates mainly due to poverty.
While it is true that health services should be paid for in order for health institutions to remain functional, it is tragic that women were being punished for giving birth.
Deputy Prime Minister Ms Thokozani Khupe was last year quoted as saying eight women died everyday while giving birth.
The move by Government will go a long way in reducing infant and maternal mortality to zero.
It has to be, however, complemented by extensive funding of health institutions, procurement of equipment, adequate drugs as well as motivated staff. Government’s policy of a 5-km radius in terms of accessibility of health institutions in rural areas will also need to be implemented.
No woman deserves to die while giving birth!
While we praise Government for the noble initiative, we pray that our health services sector will be given all the attention it needs, particularly with regards to maternal health.
The health sector improved tremendously after independence in 1980 with more hospitals and clinics being built for Zimbabweans, but over the past few years it has been hit hard by illegal sanctions which literally crippled the economy.
Doctors, nurses and other health workers have left the country for so-called greener pastures, equipment has either become outdated or derelict and drugs are in short supply. The country has had to rely heavily on handouts from foreign organisations which at one time were assisting in providing incentives to health workers.
It is without doubt that the scrapping of maternity fees will improve maternal health and maintain a healthy population growth rate.
The new policy shows Government’s commitment to the provision of universal access to reproductive health and the reduction of both the maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate.
It might also see the country achieving the Millennium Development Goals which emphasise the reduction of maternal and child deaths in the country.
We applaud Government for scrapping the fees, but we also believe that this should only be the beginning.