The number of mothers giving birth safely, especially at health centres in Rusizi District, dramatically increased from below 50 percent to 84 percent last year, statistics from Gihundwe Hospital confirm.
The whole of 2011 saw only six mothers die while giving birth as opposed to dozens of women in the past.
“We wanted zero tolerance for mothers who die while giving life. This caused us to take several measures to ensure safe births in all the six health facilities the hospital supervises in the district,” said Dr .Celestin Ntawuhungakaje, the Director of Gihundwe Hospital.
Factors behind safe motherhood
Following the Ministry of Health directives, former traditional birth attendants in the district were appointed as community health workers and assigned duties of monitoring pregnant women as well as conducting routine antenatal care.
Other measures included increasing medical staff to maternity wards and slapping fines on mothers who fail to give birth under health worker’s watch.
“We kept all records and knew all mothers that gave birth in health centres. We then fine those who had given birth at home, when they bring children for immunisation,” disclosed Dr Jeanne Nyirarukundo, the head of the Maternity ward at Gihundwe Hospital.
Presently, the fine ranges from Rwf 2000-5000 depending on the circumstances surrounding the mother’s birth.
The hospital along with community health workers further embarked on sensitisation of couples about the benefits of routine antenatal care, but a few hindrances remain.
“Even these six women wouldn’t have died if it wasn’t for challenges like inaccessible roads,” confesses Vincent Habimana, the Performance Based Financing [PBF] supervisor at the hospital.
Mothers from distsnt places like Bweyeye usually arrive at the hospital tired, which poses a risk to the lives of both mother and baby.
Infections resulting from consuming local herbs during pregnancy also account for some maternal deaths. Uncontrollable bleeding, extreme poverty and mentalities are also to blame.
“Some women still believe that giving birth safely depends on one’s fate or chance…that there is nothing a human being can change,” lamented Dr. Nyirarukundo.
Safe motherhood campaigns continue in remote areas like Nkombo, Bweyeye and Gikundanvura. The target is to reach 100 percent of the district in 2012.