Eleven maternity waiting homes (MWHs) constructed in Rushinga district by the Organization for Public Health Interventions and Development (OPHID) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, were officially handed over to the community yesterday.
The homes are expected to go a long way in reducing maternal deaths in the district, where half of the births are carried out at home with unskilled birth attendants.
Accessing maternal and child health services was noted as one of the biggest challenges in the district with most women living far away from health facilities, a situation which forced them to give birth at home.
Coupled with lack of suitable MWH structures and limited knowledge of danger warning signs in pregnancy among women, this put the mothers and their new-born babies at high risk of illness and death.
“Increasing facility births is not only a priority for the success of maternal newborn and child health programs, but also for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and elimination of paediatric infections,” OPHID country director Dr Barbara Engelsmann said.
Maternity waiting homes are residential facilities that women who live in remote areas can use as shelter before giving birth at a hospital or health centre.
The commonly accepted hypothesis is that more women from remote areas would access birthing facilities if they could wait for the onset of labour in a maternity waiting home.
The Rushinga community was excited about the development which was made possible with financial support from the Australian government and Burnet Institute in Melbourne.
Australian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Suzanne McCourt officially handed over the MWHs to the Rushinga community in a development that would ensure both mothers and infants not only survived birth, but thrived in a nurturing environment.
“The construction and refurbishment of MWHs will enhance access for women who would otherwise not use health services. Eliminating the risks associated with home deliveries will help save the lives of women and children in Zimbabwe, and we are proud as Australia to have supported such a worthwhile initiative,” McCourt said.
Since 2013, OPHID has collaborated with the Ministry of Health and the Rushinga community to increase the quality, demand and uptake of facility-based maternal and child health services among women in Rushinga district. Currently 525 women die per every 100 000 live births in Zimbabwe, which is among the countries with a high mortality rate.