MALARIA is the fifth cause of death among pregnant women in Zimbabwe and diagnosis of the disease remains a major challenge, the Health and Child Care ministry has said.
This is because pregnancy reduces women’s immunity making them more at risk of developing malaria than the general population.
The ministry said most pregnant women with malaria might not exhibit any symptoms of the disease.
Their condition might go unnoticed and may lead to complications which can be fatal. “Pregnant women are more likely to have repeated infection and develop severe complications and possibly die from the disease,” a report from the ministry reads.
It said the likelihood of a miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth or intrauterine growth retardation whereby the baby fails to grow as expected, is most common in pregnant women with malaria.
The disease can also cause a pregnant woman to develop anemia, a condition in which the red cells in the blood are insufficient.
This scenario comes against a background where maternal death in Zimbabwe is still unacceptably high at 525 deaths per 100 000 live births.
According to a recent weekly health surveillance report from the Health and Child Care ministry, the cumulative figure for maternal deaths since the beginning of the year stands at 82 and the figure keeps increasing each week.
Speaking to journalists in Bulawayo during a recently-held regional malaria campaign dubbed Race Against Malaria 2 (RAM), team leader for the Zimbabwean group Kaka Mudambo said they were still battling to contain the situation.
“Malaria in pregnant women is one of the major challenges that we face in Zimbabwe and the region as a whole,” he said.
Mudambo said it was disheartening to see pregnant women dying from malaria.
“We will continue to push for more awareness and lobby our government to increase funding for malaria,” he said.
The national programme manager for malaria in Zimbabwe, Joseph Mberi, said funding for the disease was still not enough and there was need for member States to pool resources together.
“Containing the disease requires a lot of resources and so RAM will continue to highlight such gaps and encourage member States to continue raising funds for the programme interventions,” he said.
In Zimbabwe, panners are the most vulnerable to malaria as they go without any protection measures like repellents or mosquito nets.
Mashonaland East provincial medical director Simukai Zizhou said although 93% of the 1,2 million population in the province had been given protective measures like mosquito nets, repellants and indoor spraying, some people still were not taking these seriously.
“The gold panners are still going out to pan for gold even during the malaria peak period like now without any protective measures. This is worrying because many people are now into this type of business,” he added.