20% of maternal deaths due to abortion among young women, girls

The Health and Child Care ministry has said abortions among young women and girls are now the main cause of maternal deaths.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Health and Child Care ministry secretary Gerald Gwinji

Health and Child Care ministry secretary Gerald Gwinji

Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, the ministry’s secretary, Gerald Gwinji, said 20% of maternal deaths were due to abortion.

On average, Zimbabwe record between 500 000 and 700 000 pregnancies per year, and in 2016, 514 women died while giving birth.

Although this was a reduction from 656 maternal deaths in 2014, and 575 in 2015, maternal mortality rates were reportedly still very high at 651 per 100 000 births.

“Our 2015 study showed that almost 20% of maternal deaths were due to abortions and they were mainly happening in young girls below the age of 24. They die because of septic infections, haemorrhage through bleeding of a fractured uterus, septic abortions, and hypertension in pregnancy,” he said.

Gwinji said results of an adolescent fertility study would be out in two weeks.

The ministry was also experiencing blood shortages, as only 10 000 units per year were being provided to hospitals by donors.

“Harare and Mpilo hospitals need a lot of blood and at the end of the month they usually run out. Our expected pregnancy numbers per year are on average 500 000 and if one woman is to get two units of blood, it means it is only enough for 5 000 women per year,” Gwinji said.

The government is also grappling to fight infant mortality rates that stand at 60 deaths per 1 000 babies for under-fives, compared to 27 deaths per 1 000 babies in 1988.

The ministry is also saddled with a huge debt of over $80 million, which it owes to hospitals, in terms of reimbursements of user fees charged to people over 65 years and under-fives, as well as those that are supposed to be supported through social welfare, and maternal fees that are supposed to be free.

It is also saddled with another $50 million debt to suppliers of goods and services.

“In 2016, Parirenyatwa Hospital billed $8, 2 million for services rendered to people over 65 years old and $10,3 million for under-fives, as well as $5,7 million for social welfare patients, and the total bill owed to Parirenyatwa Hospital over the years by the ministry is now $61 490 000. Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo is owed $4 million for under-fives, $3 million for over 65-year-olds, and for patients under social welfare $3,5 million. The total debt owed to Mpilo is $20 983 000,” Gwinji said.