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UNFPA Zimbabwe continues to invest in safe motherhood in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

Harare, Zimbabwe, 08 June, 2020 – Recently Zimbabwe successfully conducted the delivery of its  first case for a pregnant mother who tested positive for COVID 19. The baby was delivered through a caesarean section under spinal anaesthesia at Gweru Provincial Hospital. The operation went on well with full adherence to standard IPC guidelines, announced the Acting Secretary for Health and Child Care, Dr. Gibson Mhlanga.

As Zimbabwe and the rest of the world battle the COVID-19 pandemic the safe delivery and management of this delivery is a culmination of the critical investments that have been made over the years and during this pandemic by UNFPA and partners to ensure quality maternity services and safe motherhood. This especially in the context of a stretched resources as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and other restrictions that have made it difficult for pregnant women to reach health facilities to receive care.

UNFPA supported the Ministry of Health to conduct a Rapid Assessment of COVID-19 Response in the Context of Maternal and Sexual and Reproductive Health in Zimbabwe. The assessment sought to find Zimbabwe’s preparedness to offer antenatal, delivery and post-delivery care to pregnant women infected by COVID-19. It also assessed potential impact on the provision of other sexual and reproductive health services.  The assessment showed that the COVID-19 outbreak has affected women and young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services. There has been a general decrease in coverage indicators in 2020 as compared to 2019 . When compared to the same period last year there has been a reduction in the number of clients  accessing  antenatal , delivery and  post-natal care. Compared to April last year, for instance, the number of institutional deliveries dropped from 32,388 to 25,448, a 21% drop. Caesarean section performed dropped by 42%.  The number of women   accessing family planning has also significantly dropped. Number of women with new implant insertions dropped by 67% in the same period.

In light of the impact of COVID-19, UNFPA has reprogrammed its work to support continuity of  lifesaving maternal health interventions. UNFPA is supporting the Ministry of Health and Child Care with equipment and sundries to support emergency obstetric and neonatal care, resources for infection prevention and control such as PPE and sanitizers for health workers.  Water buckets, liquid soap and sanitizers for hand hygiene for women in  Maternity Waiting Homes have been procured. Technical and financial support continues to be provided in the national COVID response technical working groups.

UNFPA Country Representative, Dr Esther Muia says it remains essential to provide quality care for pregnant women even as the country is focused on the COVID-19 response.

“UNFPA remains committed to ensuring no woman dies while giving life; that is most important focus right now and we will continue to support the Government of Zimbabwe to provide quality maternal care even in these trying times,” said Dr. Muia.

Zimbabwe’s maternal mortality rate at 651 per 100 000 live births remains a huge concern. With focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic there is need to ensure even greater focus on ensuring continuity of essential sexual and reproductive health services.

Through support from the Health Development Fund – supported by the governments of Ireland, Sweden, United Kingdom and the European Union – UNFPA has been supporting the Government of Zimbabwe over the years to ensure quality sexual and reproductive health and rights services.

By Bertha Shoko