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Claim that rape, teen pregnancies pushing up maternal deaths in Zim is wrong

This article is more than 9 years old

Cases of rape and teenage pregnancies are responsible for an increase in maternal deaths in Zimbabwe, The Herald newspaper reported recently. They attributed the information to the director of the Southern African Aids Trust, Roselyn Dete.

According to the paper, Dete said: “Zimbabwe had recorded an alarming 960 deaths per 100,000 births and was number 14 of the worst countries in the world in terms of maternal deaths.”

Africa Check sought comment from Dete who replied that she was not quoted correctly, saying: "There appeared to be a confusion on attribution of statements". She has not yet responded to further requests for clarification.

As it happens, we recently established that the maternal mortality rate referred to in the article is outdated. Zimbabwe’s 2011 Demographic and Health Survey did show a rate of 960 deaths per 100,000 live births for the period of 2003 to 2010. But the country’s most recent household survey reported a ratio of 614 deaths per 100,000 live births for the period between 2007 and 2014, and a figure of 581 for 2009 to 2014.

A paper by the UN in Zimbabwe, published in 2013, listed the major direct causes of maternal deaths as severe bleeding after giving birth, pregnancy induced hypertension and infection related to childbirth. HIV/Aids was the main indirect cause.

Deaths due to these causes can be prevented by access to adequate healthcare. Last month UNICEF representative in Zimbabwe, Dr Jane Muita, attributed the decrease in maternal deaths shown in the latest survey to greater spend on the public health care sector. The international donor community established a Health Transition Fund in 2011, managed by UNICEF, to retain doctors and nurses, as well as provide essential medicines, vaccines and basic equipment.

Still, Zimbabwe’s maternal mortality ratio is classified as “very high” by the UN and the country will not meet the Millennium Goal requirement of reducing maternal deaths by two-thirds from 1990 figures by the end of this year. – 7/4/2015

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