Kangaroo care for Karoi pre-term babies

KAROI - Teenager Matirasa Ndakaitei* battled to control tears when she gave birth to a premature underweight baby at Karoi District Hospital.

She was discharged to maintain the new baby under kangaroo care at her rural home under chief Nyamhunga, 60 kilometres out of Karoi town.

Strapping the newly-born baby on her chest, she could hardly hold back tears.

“I never thought my pregnancy was due but when I went into labour, the result was the pre-term baby.

“I was told to spend at least five weeks clutching my child like a kangaroo,” the 19-year-old tells the Daily News, her face giving away a troubled soul.

Several hundreds of Zimbabwean women are re-engaging in the “kangaroo-care style” common for pre-term babies.

Matirasa’s husband never made a follow-up when she was transferred from Magunje, about 35 kilometres away.

She is facing the same fate as several hundreds of women who are giving birth to underweight and pre-term babies without adequate, modern health care due to economic, political and social crisis gripping the country.

A local nurse who declined to be named said: “Some actually prefer natural bondage between mothers and their babies.

“In most rural areas, incubators are not used at all.”

Regina Matarau from Chief Dandawa’s area in Hurungwe admits that kangaroo care is common in rural areas.

“Kangaroo care is not new as we used to do several years ago. During the night we could use traditional born fire regulating the heat for the premature babies. The children are called “gavamwedzi” because they are born before they are due,” says the 60-year-old.

Another junior nurse attributes this to staff shortages at health institutions.

“As you know, incubators need constant monitoring but we are short staffed and that is why we are promoting kangaroo care.

“You cannot have the chance to supervise the incubators and this may disastrous causing death to the babies,” said the nurse.

Tamai Mapondera of Karoi who took care of two pre-term babies for 15 years says it needs commitment.

“One of the kids was born at eight months and the mother passed away when he was just two weeks old. I looked after him and did not bath him for five weeks. He is now doing Form Four. The other one is now doing Grade Four,” says the 56-year-old.

Mashonaland West provincial medical director Wenclus Nyamayaro admits that kangaroo care is done where there are few incubators or none at all.

“Government is not abandoning the use of incubators. “Lives are served especially where pre-term babies are born in rural areas most of which do not have incubators,” he said in a written response.

Nyamayaro added premature babies were a result of nutritional problems on the part of the mother, sexually transmitted infections and early rapture of the membrane among other reasons.

He had no readily-available statistics of pre-term babies in the province.

The government is facing a financial crisis and is accused of double standards by freezing enrolment of thousands of trained nurses while recruiting uniformed forces for a country that is not at war.

Over 63 percent of Zimbabwe’s population is in the rural areas, according to the World Bank Zimbabwe Indications of Density and Urbanisation report published in 2012.

The 2010 report says Zimbabwe “was” one of Africa’s strongest economies before years of conflicts, mismanagement and corruption reduced it to a basket case.

*Name changed to protect identity.

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