Women Champion “Empty Cradles” Campaign

Women have raised alarm over the possible upsurge in maternal and neonatal mortality following the death of seven babies who were still born at Harare Hospital last month.

Through a social media campaign running under the theme: Empty Cradles, #sesilahlimbeleko#mberekomavi, women in Zimbabwe say due to continued disregard and neglect of the health sector and its workers, they are enraged by the rate of deaths of women and their infants.

For some, the incident has brought back painful memories of how they lost their new born babies because of the neglect in the basic healthcare services.

Mrs. Diana Chikwature, (30), said in 2013, she lost her baby after the nurses at the United Bulawayo Hospital (UBH) ignored her upon admission, after three days she had to give birth on her own.

“In 2013 I was so excited about giving birth because I was going to give birth to a boy. I had booked at Northend Clinic. I was in labor for three days so they called an ambulance for me and transferred me to UBH.

“When I got there, I was in so much pain and I begged the nurses to attend to me but I remember vividly one nurse saying to me she was the only nurse around and just left me,” she said.

Chikwature said she ended up giving birth without attention from medical personnel, but later lost the baby as she incurred many complications while giving birth without receiving.

“I remember telling myself that I had to push in order to save my baby. Unfortunately, he later died, something I have not been able to put past me. Reading about the seven deaths of the Harare babies rekindled the pain I felt years back and I re experienced the whole process of losing my baby,” she said.

Doctor Bekezela Ndhlovu, a Senior Resident Medical Officer in Bulawayo said more neonatal cases of should be anticipated, unless the fundamentals in the health sector are put in place.

“Our health sector is in trouble and has been for a while. Zimbabwe has allowed the shortages of drugs, equipment and health personnel leaving the country. This has made public hospitals inefficient places of getting help.”

“Most pregnant women probably will not have much options but to keep coming to our ill-equipped and ill-staffed government institutions. We will unfortunately, have more cases of mothers losing their babies unless the fundamentals in the health sector are addressed,” he said.

Dr Ndhlovu urged the government to motivate working staff with a reasonable living wage in order to stay at work.

“The working staff needs to be motivated through provision of a reasonable living wage. This will ensure that workers in the health sector report to work. I hope that happens soon, until then the future of our health sector does not look good,” said Dr Ndhlovu.

Through the campaign, women in Zimbabwe are calling upon the government to uphold section 76(3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which clearly states that: No person may be refused emergency medical treatment in any healthcare institution.

During a Whatsapp meeting hosted by WILD last week, focusing of the healthcare system in Zimbabwe, citizens said government should allocate adequate resources to the health sector to ensure its viability.

They urged government to set aside a significant percent of the national budget towards health care needs and address “toxic politics and governance issues so as to stabilize the economy and social sector.

Since 2019, the health allocation has moved from 7% to 10 % in 2020 but this still falls short of the 15% Abuja Declaration Target.

Women have also implored the government of Zimbabwe and its various arms to declare the maternal and neonatal mortality a national disaster and allocate adequate resources to avoid unnecessary deaths of women and babies.

Source: Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD)