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Linking Communities with Life-Saving Obstetric Care Through Maternity Waiting Homes

Pregnancy and childbirth typically represent a joyful time in a woman's life. For most, this is a positive time of expectation. However, for many women living in low- or middle-income countries, childbirth can be a death sentence.

Despite significant progress in reducing Zimbabwe's maternal mortality rate, 614 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births remains unacceptably high, especially because most of these deaths could have been prevented. Poverty limits access to life-saving emergency obstetric care. Poor women often delay seeking medical care because of a lack of transportation and poor road networks to take them to hospitals.

The United Methodist Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Health Board has made addressing the needs of the most vulnerable -- women and children -- a priority. Working with the country's ministry of health, the Health Board has adopted the recommendation to ensure each rural clinic has a maternity waiting home, which provides a safe environment where high-risk women can be monitored during the final weeks of their pregnancies. With the generous support of partners and the government, seven of the 15 rural clinics operated by the Health Board now have these homes. Your gifts to The Advance #3021770will make it possible to provide more maternity waiting homes in Zimbabwe.

With the help of a Health Systems Strengthening Grant from the General Board of Global Ministries, a new maternity waiting home has been built for the Anoldine Clinic in Zimbabwe. Women and their families help with the cleaning, cooking, washing, and gardening at the home, normal chores they would do in their own homes. The maternity waiting home provides women with autonomy and dignity, hosting them in a cultural environment they are used to rather than in a hospital. Their families incur little expense for the service.

The maternity waiting home at the Anoldine Clinic is accessible to women who live far enough from the clinic to put them at risk of not being able to reach medical assistance if obstetric complications arise. In the past six months, the maternity waiting home has hosted 16 women. Its construction has resulted in an increase in antenatal (pregnancy) appointments at the facility with 104 bookings in six months. This has also led to an increase in hospital deliveries. Having a maternity waiting home near the Anoldine clinic has made the dream of having a safe and secure environment for childbirth possible for many women.

The Anoldine Clinic maternity waiting home is a link in a larger chain of comprehensive maternity care being initiated by the United Methodist Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Health Board. Other interventions include training service providers in client care, upgrading infrastructure and equipment, and expediting the process for appointments. These initiatives will help reduce maternal morbidity and mortality in Zimbabwe while also linking communities with the health system in a continuum of care.

Ms. Hannah Mafunda,  United Methodist Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Health Board Coordinator based in Harare, Zimbabwe and Graciela Salvador-Davila, Health Systems Strengthening Manager at Global Ministries.

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