Matabeleland South acting provincial medical director Andrew Muza says there has been a notable decline in institutional maternal deaths in the province since the launch of a health fund programme two years ago.

Last year, 10 deaths were recorded in the province’s seven districts.

In an interview during a media tour in Gwanda, Muza said the Health Resilience Fund (HRF) was instrumental in providing essential medical equipment to clinics and hospitals throughout the region.

HRF is a co-ordinated pooled fund led by the Health and Child Care ministry with financial assistance from the European Union, the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Vaccine Alliance and technical support from UNFPA, Unicef and WHO.

“Part of the objectives include reducing avoidable deaths which are maternal and neonatal deaths. As a province we have benefited from the implementation of HRF and over the years one of the targets we strived to attain was reducing maternal deaths,” Muza said.

“Our institutional maternal deaths stand at 71 per 100 000 which indicates a decline from the high figures recorded in the past years. Last year we had a total of 10 deaths from all our districts and although we can do better, it is a clear sign that we have improved greatly.”

He added that they would provide training to healthcare workers, equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to support pregnant women and ensure safe deliveries.

“We managed to train healthcare workers to help pregnant women and procured assistive equipment to ensure they deliver well. We have trained healthcare workers to manage malnutrition and other illnesses that affect children through the pooled fund by the government and its partners,” Muza said.

“Health information has also been another pillar. We are capturing information in real time and managing it around the province. Our committees have been empowered with correct information which they take to communities which in turn are able to make informed health choices.”

Bulilima acting district medical officer, Chido Chitiyo, said they acquired critical care medications through HRF.

“In Bulilima, as of last year, (maternal deaths) was at 0% because we have been managing to access critical care medication required especially in this department. Provision of fuel has significantly helped and assisted us because we can now try to reach those hard to go areas. Through this fund, each clinic is allocated fuel for ambulances to ferry patients to Plumtree District Hospital,” Chitiyo said.

Plumtree District Hospital senior midwife for post-natal care, Winnet Gumbu, echoed the same sentiments saying most mothers were assisted early.

“We have a mothers’ waiting shelter whereby we keep all the mothers, for example the teenage mothers, those who have had risk deliveries, they will be close by hence they can be easily assisted. This has led to a reduction in maternal deaths,” she said.

One of the beneficiaries, at the waiting mothers’ shelter at Plumtree District Hospital, Sithembinkosi Ncube from Malalume village, said expecting mothers used to walk for three hours to access healthcare centres putting themselves at risk.