Photograph — Growing your baby

The poor state of power supply in Zimbabwe is forcing midwives to use candlelights in the delivery room. A situation which reflects the challenges plaguing the Southern African country, coupled with current sanctions by the United State’s government. 

In Mufakose Polyclinic, Zimbabwe, the medical team requests that pregnant mothers provide their lighting. According to a statement by a midwife to Al Jazeera News: “[We] ask them to bring bulbs with batteries as it is difficult to see when using candle lights.”

Al Jazeera News further reported the case of Mitchell Matarause, who delivered her son with the use of candlelight, in a clinic in Harare, the city’s capital. In a statement, Matarause said that the midwives were using candles and torches for lighting. 

She also added that while one midwife assisted her with the birth process, another held the torches.  

The maternal and infant mortality rate in Zimbabwe is alarming. According to Thokozani Khupe a member of the country’s parliament, 15 women die every day in Zimbabwe while giving birth. She stated this while calling for International Women’s Day on 8 March to be declared a national holiday. The infant mortality rate in the country is 32.7 deaths/1,000 live births (male is 36.8 deaths/1,000 live births while the female is 28.5 deaths/1,000 live births as at 2017)

Globally, 2.6 million babies die before turning one-month-old per year. One million of them take their first and last breaths on the day they are born. The major factors which contribute to the increase in maternal mortality in Zimbabwe include poorly equipped health centres, the absence of clean water, no electricity and limited medical supplies. These factors make it difficult for the medical team to save the lives of women with complications. These also create anxiety in pregnant women during the birth process.

Matarause said that she had feared for the worst. In her words: “I was just praying I deliver well, without complications. I feared the worst and sighed with relief when it was over.”

Early this year, the state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZERA) introduced an 18-hour power cut because its electricity generating capacity dropped due to low water levels from Lake Kariba. ZERA had to increase its average electricity tariff by 320 percent which had made access to light impossible for most of its citizens. 

Following a severe drought which dealt the country a heavy blow, the volume of water in the lake drastically reduced. This left about 2 million of its citizens without clean water and crippled the country’s agriculture. 

The heavy economic sanctions crippling Zimbabwe’s economy were imposed in 2002, during Late. Robert Mugabe’s regime. President Emmerson Mnangagwa consistently blames the country’s economic woes on those sanctions, calling for its removal. Recently, the Southern African Development Community(SADC) and the African Union have also called for its removal. 

These restrictions were imposed due to gross violation of fundamental human rights, a high level of corruption and interruption of the democratic process. The U.S government thus placed an embargo on any individual who continues to do business with certain Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwean women, like most women in crippled economies, are most affected by these sanctions. International aid agencies and world leaders should look into possible ways they can intervene for the removal of these sanctions on Zimbabwe to save these women and liberate its economy.

By Ishioma Eni

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