Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Health Reporter
Zimbabwe in the past year managed to reduce maternal deaths in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts by 46 percent following interventions by the Government in partnership with the Chinese Government and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to capacitate health institutions in areas affected by Cyclone Idai.
Under the health assistance project for women and girls in Zimbabwe affected by tropical Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has been capacitated to strengthen emergency obstetric and neonatal care in the affected areas.
Government yesterday received reproductive health medical equipment and medicines, which were procured under a US$1,24 million facility from China expected to enhance capacity for the health institutions to provide emergency care services for pregnant women and new-borns.
The project is also going to fund rehabilitation of maternity waiting homes at Chipinge district hospital, Mutambara Mission hospital and Birchenough Bridge district hospital to ensure pregnant women who live far from hospitals or have high risk pregnancies can be accommodated comfortably close to these facilities towards their due date.
Speaking during a virtual handover ceremony of the equipment, chief director preventive services in the Ministry of Health Dr Wenceslas Nyamayaro said the support from China was making a huge impact on the lives of women and girls Chimanimani and Chipinge.
“The Government of Zimbabwe truly values the relationship we have with China. We would like to express our gratitude to China for rebuilding the provision of maternal healthcare services to women in cyclone Idai affected areas of Zimbabwe, which is expected to contribute to the reduction of maternal deaths.”
Zimbabwe has a high maternal mortality rate with 462 deaths per 100 000 live births, according to the 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.
Dr Nyamayaro said cyclone Idai had resulted in limited access to health care for communities, particularly pregnant women.
After the cyclone, a total of 396 women were transferred to higher level of care (district and provincial) for emergency obstetric and neonatal care between March and May 2019.
Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Guo Shaochun said China had been doing its best to provide humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe post Cyclone Idai.
“As a responsible member of international society and the all-weather friend of Zimbabwe, China has been doing its best to provide all kinds of assistance to Zimbabwe in human rights, health care and infrastructure construction. After the Cyclone Idai, the Chinese government has provided emergency humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe through bilateral and multilateral channels, and continued to pay close attention to and support the health and living conditions of the people in the affected areas. We are glad to see that Chinese companies are also making active contributions to the protection of women and girls in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Zimbabwe also received 342,930 sanitary pads from Ansun Angel Health Group Ltd. of China, for over 2000 young women and girls across the country to be distributed through the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium enterprises Development and various Civil Society Organisations that have a strong community presence around the country.
UNFPA Zimbabwe representative Dr Esther Muia said the donation by the Chinese Government would make a meaningful impact on the lives of women in the affected districts and help reduce the maternal mortality rate.
“We are very grateful for the support that the Government of China has provided to the cyclone Idai affected districts. This support is already making a huge difference in the lives of many women and girls. China is helping Zimbabwe to become more resilient for the future. This will contribute to the reduction of the country’s already high maternal mortality rate where 462 women are dying out of every 10 000 live births,” she said.
She said the donation of sanitary pads would allow many girls in Zimbabwe to have their menstrual periods with dignity.
“Many women and girls in Zimbabwe, especially those from marginalised communities fail to access sanitary pads because they cannot afford them. As a result many girls miss school for days due to shame of soiling themselves publicly or use unsanitary methods. All this exposes them to health risks of contracting infections of the reproductive system and may actually impact on their reproductive health,” she said.