HARARE - As Zimbabwe's healthcare system collapses amid medical worker strikes, some women are being forced to rely on midwives and give birth in unsanitary conditions, which experts say puts the mother and child at risk infections.
Zimbabwe's clinics have often been forced to suspend operations since medical workers went on strike to push for better wages in September.
Pregnant women have been turning to midwives to deliver their babies, explains Esther Zinyoro-Gwenya, who is a midwife in one of Harare's poorest townships, Mbare.
“I ask each expecting mother to bring a razor blade, a pin for the baby’s navel and cotton. Nothing untoward has happened. It’s an easy task after the baby is delivered, I ask the mother to go into my bedroom to rest while I take care of the next one,” she said.
The 74-year-old Zinyoro-Gwenya said she has already delivered about 250 babies in November.
While she said all mothers and babies survived, the lack of sanitation means a higher risk of infection.
It is also a symptom of the ailing state of health care in the country, said Dr. Tawanda Zvakada from the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association.
“It’s a sad situation that we find ourselves in whereby women are now giving birth in place that is not sterile, that does not meet the minimum World Health Organization’s requirements for a facility that suits for delivery of babies. It is just a reflection of our health systems which is on the verge of a collapse; people seeking alternative health methods. We call upon the responsible authorities to act on the situation with the urgency that it deserves,” said Dr. Zvakada.
Zimbabwe’s doctors and nurses want the government to provide modern equipment to clinics and hospitals, which have deteriorated along with the country's economy. The World Bank expects Zimbabwe's gross domestic product to shrink by 7.5% in 2019.
George Guvamatanga, secretary for Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, said Harare is aware of the healthcare problems and that the government is working to address the issues.
“We are very much on top of the situation within the health and education sectors. We are working closely with the Ministry of Health to make sure that sustainable and adequate resources as required by the doctors are provided,” he said.
Meanwhile, expectant mothers in Zimbabwe are doing the best they can.