CHILDBIRTH should be a joyous moment for families and community. It should be a cause for thanksgiving, praise and celebration.
However, it becomes a serious concern when pregnant mothers die while struggling to bring forth life. It becomes a catastrophe, a period of loss, anguish and suffering.
It brings shame to families and communities when too many pregnant women and newborns die unnecessarily and this evil must be condemned in the strongest terms.
No woman should die while giving birth. Period! The uncivilised death of Esther Mukadiro-Nyahoda, of Tsanzaguru, Rusape, and her twin babies at a shrine run by the African Apostolic Church comes to mind.
Esther’s death must be condemned.
It is disheartening that the tragedy had been foretold through an ultrasound scan which detected the woman had two babies, one of which was in breeching position.
Most babies move into delivery position with the head moving closer to the birth canal — and when this fails to happen, the baby’s buttocks or feet will be positioned to be delivered first — this is referred to as breech presentation.
It was recommended that the surest way to save the woman and her babies was a Caesarean section — but the fact that the sound medical advice was ignored on behest of mweya or faith healing and resulted in her death and that of her two babies calls for serious introspection.
This incident is telling insofar as how maternal mortality is still being fuelled by uncivilised religious practices that either dissuade, brainwash or prevent women from seeking lifesaving health services during delivery and post-partum.
It goes to show how religious teachings and religious regulations of some apostolic faith groups influence the healthcare seeking behaviour of their members. This reflects on religious teaching and church doctrine and levels of adherence to these teachings and doctrines.
Some sect beliefs, teaching and practices have a direct impact on different health-related decisions and often lead to competing positions on the uptake of modern healthcare services and vaccination.
Religious leaders are often the first people consulted when families face important life decisions — including health decisions — and Government, NGOs, Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) and the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA), must join hands to ensure provision of adequate health care for women and children and also the dissemination of health messages amongst sect churches.
Esther’s death has exposed significant gaps in availability, quality and access to comprehensive reproductive health education and services among some sect women.
This calls for continuous empowerment of sect leaders and birth attendants so that they play key roles in averting maternal deaths.
Government must continue engaging faith leaders to combat maternal deaths in their churches and in turn faith leaders should incorporate positive health messages into their work and help to change attitudes and behaviours harmful to women and children.
They should advocate against religious and traditional beliefs that violate child survival and maternal health.
Their health shrines or matumba must be manned by skilled birth attendants who should understand their inability to provide emergency obstetric care. Sect leaders should dedicate more resources to maternal health their health centres to cater for emergencies.
Some sect groups must reform and empower their followers against dangers of evils like maternal death, gender-based violence, and inculcate in them positive ideas of delivering children at health facilities, seeking HIV and Aids services, spacing births, campaigning for young adolescences to avoid teenage pregnancy and stay in school and promote safe practices.
This is the future we want. One that is consistent with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).