Infections among 'major maternal deaths causes'

HARARE - Infections — coupled with postpartum haemorrhages and eclampsia — were the major causes of maternal deaths in 2015, a Health ministry report revealed.

According to the report, presented by the ministry's official, Constance Mundoringisa at a Community Working Group workshop on Health, haemorrhages accounted for 24,4 percent of the deaths while infections were 20 percent and eclampsia 14,6 percent.

Postpartum haemorrhage is excessive bleeding after birth while eclampsia is a condition that causes seizures in a pregnant woman suffering from high blood pressure.

Mundoringisa said the report’s findings were based on analysis of death notification forms only, adding that the maternal deaths could be higher if home deliveries are accounted for.

She said infections were among the major causes due to use of unsterilised utensils during delivery at unregistered healthcare facilities.

“Maternal deaths due to haemorrhage declined from 32 percent in 2013 to 21 percent in 2014 possibly due to the availability of blood through the blood coupon project,” she noted.

In 2015, the highest number of recipients for blood transfusions was 31 percent for post-partum haemorrhage while anaemia accounted for 17 percent.

The report also shows that other birth challenges that needed transfusion were ante-partum haemorrhage, post-caesarean section bleeding, ruptured uterus and post-abortion bleeding.

Mundoringisa said some of the challenges the ministry was facing is a persistent limited range of family planning methods available at health facilities.

She also added that primary care nurses had their workload increased due to a shift in their daily tasks making the occurrence of one nurse manning a clinic common.

“The ministry has a serious shortage of human resources. Since 1980 government has not reviewed its human resources policy. We just inherited the system from the colonial period without having any foresight as to what might happen in future.

“Now we have a host of new diseases and infections and also technological advances that were not present back then — all needing skilled personnel to attend to. It is not uncommon to find that one nurse is taking the temperature, prescribing drugs and also delivering babies single-handedly at a healthcare facility,” Mundoringisa said.

She said other challenges were the introduction of user fees, which have increased unregulated over the years, making access to healthcare difficult for the poor.

The ministry official also said other challenges include development of unlicensed clinics and maternity waiting homes, which provide substandard healthcare services.

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