Pauline was the first woman to give birth at the maternal waiting home in Kopondoro, Zimbabwe. She delivered her second child, a healthy boy named Clive, on 5 March 2015 in the home her whole community helped build.
However, when she was pregnant with her first son, Carlos, Pauline did not have a maternal waiting home to go to. Like many other women from rural communities in Zimbabwe, she was forced to make the long journey to the district hospital, where they did not provide her with a bed or meals.
“I was in the hospital for two weeks and I had to sleep on the floor,” said Pauline. “I had to bring my own blankets and there was nowhere to cook my own food.”
In Zimbabwe, women are almost 200 times more likely to die of complications due to childbirth than in Australia. Many women live too far from a hospital or can’t afford the fees.
Local maternal waiting homes offer:
- a safe, comfortable place for women to rest before giving birth
- pre-natal care so any conditions can be detected and treated early
- nurses trained in obstetrics who assist during the birth and offer emergency medical help
- ante-natal care, immunisations and check-ups
- breastfeeding training and nutrition information sessions for mothers.
With help from Action on Poverty and our local partner COTD, Pauline’s whole community helped build a lifesaving waiting home. Each household had to mould 50 bricks and everyone submitted their bricks to the village chief, who kept records.
Building a maternal waiting home
The home took just six months to build, and the whole community feels a sense of pride and ownership.
“It’s ours because it helps our families,” says Pauline’s mother-in-law. “We are the ones that built it and we are very proud of it.”
Pauline’s experience with Clive was drastically different to her first time giving birth at the district hospital. She walked the 1.5km to the maternal waiting home before giving birth, where she could rest, undergo pre-natal tests, deliver with the help of trained nurses, and receive breastfeeding and nutrition training.
“I had a bed and a place to cook food. I participated in exclusive breastfeeding classes and I was taught to breastfeed the baby every two hours.
“The maternal waiting homes are closer than the hospital, which means you don’t have to travel so far. Travel to the hospital can be risky to the baby or you could give birth along the way.”
Saving mothers and babiesSister Dengezi, a community health nurse at the district hospital, said maternal waiting homes have seen a huge reduction in home births.
“The maternal waiting homes have become a forum to understand the needs of women, from nutrition to how rest helps the growth of a foetus,” said Sister Dengezi. “Sharing with each other in the homes helps women’s psychology. There is also better adherence to exclusive breastfeeding and improved infant survival.”
Pauline agrees that maternal waiting homes increase chances of survival for mothers and babies.
“Any complications are detected early,” she said. “You also receive HIV testing and counselling.”
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