By Elizabeth B. Mupfumira
CHIPINGE, Zimbabwe, 23 February 2012 – In a move to reverse the high maternal and child mortality rates in Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom has strengthened its partnership with UNICEF Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare by announcing a ₤50 million (US$78.4 million) injection into the Health Transition Fund, a fund geared towards strengthening health systems to ultimately save the lives of more than 30,000 children under age 5 and pregnant women.
|VIDEO: Mark Lowcock, Permanent Secretary of United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) discusses the department's latest contribution towards saving lives of women and children in Zimbabwe. Watch in RealPlayer|
Gladys Maponga, a 20-year-old mother from Tanganda Village, is one of the women who will benefit from the Fund. Ten days after giving birth to her first child at the District Hospital, 30 km from her rural village, Ms. Maponga visited the Tanganda Rural Clinic, which is closer to her home, for a post-natal check-up. The clinic, situated near the eastern border of Zimbabwe, provides health care services that include newborn care, access to essential medicines, immunization, and information on breastfeeding and nutrition.
“Many mothers living in the Tanganda area who give birth at the District Hospital, and even the ones who give birth at home, always come back to this clinic where we provide them with full post-natal care,” said health worker Daniye Simango. “I am hoping that in the next few years, we will be able to establish a Mother’s Waiting Home to reduce home deliveries and referrals to the District Hospital.”
Tanganda Rural Clinic helps ensure patients like Ms. Maponga and her baby have access to quality healthcare during the critical period after child birth. “The clinic provides me with the help that I need for free because I cannot afford to travel all the way back to the District Hospital for checkups,” Ms. Maponga said.
|© UNICEF VIDEO|
|The Tanganda Rural Clinic, in the Chipinge District, provides health care services including newborn care, access to essential medicines and immunization.|
Dramatic declines in health care
For more than a decade now, Zimbabwe’s health sector had witnessed a dramatic decline in health service delivery because of under-investment in the sector. This has made it difficult for many people in rural areas, particularly women and children, to access life-saving maternal and child health care. As a result, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying of pregnancy complications stands at 1 in 42, and of every 1,000 live births, 80 children die before reaching age 5.
“There is no doubt that the poorest women and children have borne the brunt of the decline in health service delivery over the past decade,” said UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe Dr. Peter Salama. “However, significant progress has been made in recent years. Abolishing user fees for pregnant women and children under 5 and strengthening the quality and reach of services will save even more lives.”
Making significant improvements
The ₤50 million contribution – part of a broader ₤74 million contribution from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) to improve maternal and child health in Zimbabwe – will support the Health Transition Fund’s activities in four key areas. These are: improvements in quality of maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition services; provision of medicines and basic equipment; human resources for health; and health policy, planning and finance.
|© UNICEF VIDEO|
|Many mothers who give birth at home come to the Tanganda Rural Clinic for critical follow-up care.|
The Fund is led by the Inclusive Government in partnership with UNICEF and the international donor community. Over the past three years, efforts made by the Inclusive Government, combined with investments by international donor partners, have helped stabilize the health sector. Programmes to supplement health worker salaries and supply essential medicines have shown a significant impact in re-establishing primary health care services across the country.
“Given our alliance and shared priorities, we will continue to work with UNICEF in support of the Inclusive Government to improve the health of women and children in Zimbabwe,” said UK DFID Permanent Secretary Mark Lowcock. “Health is one of the issues we are very focused on, and hope to decrease the burden of maternal mortality in Zimbabwe”
With this contribution, rural clinics around Zimbabwe will be able to continue providing invaluable services to the women and children, ensuring equitable and life-saving access to quality health care to mothers like Ms. Maponga and their babies.