USAid bows out of maternal health scheme

HARARE - As external support for health programmes in Zimbabwe continues to shrink, the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) has bowed out from another strategic programme which was contributing much towards maternal health.

In 2014, USAid and the Health and Child Care ministry had partnered in a programme dubbed the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Programme (MChip) meant to reduce maternal and child deaths, under a $15 million grant.

However, that partnership has come to an end leaving a gap in the funding of maternal health.

According to officials, the USAid-supported MChip, which was launched in response to very high levels of maternal and child deaths in Zimbabwe, had demonstrated impressive achievements in reducing maternal, new-born, and child deaths.

Between 2014 and 2017, a 43 percent reduction in maternal deaths was recorded, as well as , a 36 percent reduction in new-born deaths, and a 25 percent reduction in deaths in children under the age of five years in the health facilities supported by USAid/MChip.

“The United States is proud to increase access to high quality health care for Zimbabwean families. Over the last four years, this successful programme improved the health of 230 000 mothers and 1,5 million babies and children in Manicaland Province,” USAid Zimbabwe acting deputy mission director Julie Nenon said.

The country’s health sector is heavily dependent on donors as government has been failing to adequately fund the critical sector, with only 6,8 percent of the total budget being allocated to health for 2017.

In Manicaland, MChip has scaled up effective interventions at 36 health facilities and in communities, targeting women from pregnancy to child birth, women immediately after child birth, newborn and pre-term babies, and infants and children under five.

MChip director Rose Kambarami said over 1 000 health workers were also trained to improve knowledge and skills.

“MChip has improved maternal, child, and new-born health by ensuring that more health facilities are equipped to provide basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric and neonatal care, treatment of sick children, essential new born care, and management of childhood illnesses. MChip has also trained over 1 300 health care workers to improve MNCH, giving them the knowledge and skills to carry on this important work long after the activity ends,” Kambarami said.

In 2010, the maternal mortality ratio was 960 deaths per 100 000 live births and the mortality rate for children under the age of five was 84 deaths per 1 000 live births according to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS).

Since then, significant reductions in maternal and child mortality estimates have been documented with the ZDHS 2015/2016, which demonstrated a reduction in maternal mortality from 960 to 651 deaths per 100 000 live births and under-five mortality rate from 84 to 69 deaths per 1 000 live births.

This comes as thousands of women in Zimbabwe who were benefiting from the Improving Family Planning Services (IFPS) programme are also set to lose out on essential contraceptives and awareness programmes following the pulling out of USAid.

According to the statistics that were provided by Population Services International Zimbabwe and USAid, the programme reached over

650 000 Zimbabweans and averting 814 maternal deaths and 3 800 child deaths.

The IFPS which included providing affordable contraceptives to women particularly in rural areas, family planning education and awareness ran for five years.

For more than 30 years, the American people, through USAid, have contributed over $3 billion in assistance to Zimbabwe.

Apart from maternal health care, MChip also improved prevention and treatment of malaria in Manicaland by training 3 000 community-based health care workers in malaria case management.

This resulted in the timely detection and treatment of over 4 000 malaria cases, improving health and saving lives in rural communities that have difficulty gaining access to health clinics.

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