Giving Life Under Difficult Conditions

Amid more than a month-long strike by medical doctors and recent industrial action by council nurses doors at various hospitals and clinics were shut. Mbare’s popular Edith Opperman Maternity clinic was also closed leaving hundreds of expectant mothers in quandary.

Giving Life Under Difficult Conditions
Gogo Gwena Mbare Midwife
Giving Life Under Difficult Conditions
Giving Life Under Difficult Conditions

Amid more than a month-long strike by medical doctors and a recent industrial action by council nurses, doors at various hospitals and clinics were shut.

Mbare’s popular Edith Opperman Maternity clinic was also closed leaving hundreds of expectant mothers in quandary.

A few metres from the council-owned maternity clinic is block 19 Tagarika Flats where a 72-year-old woman Esther Zinyoro Gwena has become an instant hero as she has assisted more than 100 women in giving birth.

Desperate pregnant women are seen milling around the block waiting for their turn and time for free deliveries.

A jubilant mother Sithembile Kaitoni confirmed that she gave birth at Gogo Gwena’s backyard maternity.

“Yes I delivered for free and Gogo Gwena helped me. I am safe and my baby is safe and very well,” Kaitoni said

A member of the St Jones Apostolic church Gogo Gwena says she is not a trained midwife but the Holy Spirit helps her.

“I never trained as a midwife, I started by assisting a pregnant woman at Church and then eight years ago I started delivering babies. It is the Holy Spirit” she said claiming she has never taken rest since the strike began.

Concern has been raised over hygienic conditions at Gwena’s apartment amid fears of a health time bomb.

Experts who include senior nurses from various government hospitals cited issues to do with child protection from HIV and Hepatitis, the number of stillbirths that have been recorded and complications associated with home deliveries.

"To start with the place is too small for the number of people that are said to be frequenting the place. There are a number of precautionary measures that delivery experts do to prevent the child from things like HIV and Hepatitis which she cannot do during home delivery,”

“There are complications that usually happen during home deliveries which at the end of the day can kill the mother or the child. All these are a clear indication that whatever she is doing is good but has long term effects health-wise," said one nurse from a local government hospital.

A trained midwife from Parirenyatwa Hospital said that they are many processes that surrounding childbirth.

"In cases where the baby shows signs of distress, the baby is in a position other than the head first, the mother needs pain relief, the mother has high blood pressure or experiences severe bleeding, a person might need to be transferred to a proper health institution to save the mother and baby or either of them in some cases," she said.

"More research needs to be done on how she is handling such problems traditionally, does she have antiseptics, how is she disposing of the afterbirths, do they account for the babies lost because we are only hearing of success stories?" questioned the nurse.

In an interview with the Director of Family Health in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Bernard Madzima said that the ministry does not encourage these traditional home deliveries.

"The traditional birth attendant who is delivering in Mbare, it’s not something that the ministry encourages. Our policy is that all deliveries should happen in our health institutions and should be manned by a professional attendant,"

"Unfortunately we have a situation in hospitals, doctors have not been attending patients so it has led to the popularity of ana nyamukuta (traditional midwives). It puts everything at risk in terms of the HIV programmes, immunization, antenatal care, and post-natal care programme," said Dr Madzima.

"We are working flat out together with partners to make sure those hospitals and clinics are open. We hope that our doctors will go back to work soon," added Dr Madzima "Mbare is one of the places where water and sanitation are a problem this delivering more than 100 babies in eight days raises questions in terms of how Gogo is managing her hygiene. It’s only a matter of time before the bomb explodes”