Midwifery in Zimbabwe Amid COVID19 Fears

May 11, 2020 | Blog, News, Safer Together, Zimbabwe

By Dr Christina Rawdon, White Ribbon Alliance Zimbabwe

Lydia* is a midwife in Zimbabwe who works at a public hospital and referral centre for high risk patients from across the country. Every day, she waits an hour for the government bus to take her to the hospital. On the bus, she says the driver gives the riders “clinical alcohol instead of the sanitizer to rub on our hands.” Prior to the May 4th announcement by the Government of Zimbabwe mandating face masks be worn in public spaces, Lydia said, “All the passengers, inclusive of the driver, had no face masks; one passenger on the two seater and two on the three seater to achieve social distancing.”

In April, Lydia began working the night shift, taking care of postpartum women in the maternity department. She told me about a harrowing encounter while on duty:

“As I was checking vital signs [of women in the maternity ward], a woman emerged from one of the rooms wearing a facemask, which I thought she was given when she was in the labour ward. Upon asking her why she had a mask on, she said she was isolated because she complained of congested nostrils, fever, had a high temperature and was tested for the COVID-19 virus. This was missed on the handover report by the day staff who also did not inform her that isolation meant she should remain in her room and not mix with other women.

“In that moment, fear had the best of me whether the woman was positive and that there is a high chance of spreading to the public and my immediate family. I panicked, so did other women and staff who were present. I asked her to go back to her room explaining what isolation meant and why. In the morning I waited anxiously for the results. The woman was informed that she was negative of COVID-19 Virus.

“I have learnt from this case that it is easy to spread the virus if proper precautions are not taken seriously, this includes provision of PPE to midwives, and client education for self-care. I am living in fear and anxiety and only praying to God that the nightmare of COVID-19 will come to an end.”

Protecting our healthworkers protects all of us. When healthworkers have appropriate and adequate equipment to carry out their responsibilities, we’re safer together. The Global Respectful Maternity Care Council, convened by White Ribbon Alliance, launched the Safer Together campaign which, among other vital actions, calls upon governments and healthcare decision makers to ensure personal protective equipment is available to all providers. Join the campaign, and help everyone stay safer, together.

*name changed to protect privacy