SALLY NYAKANYANGA | September 26, 2017
Juliet Chasamuka, 34, was six months pregnant when I met her in the Gutu district of Masvingo, a rural community 300 kilometres south of Harare, Zimbabwe. The now mother of five has had many different experiences when giving birth.
For her first two births, as is the norm at many poor health care centres in the remote areas of this largely agrarian country, Chasamuka was expected to bring her own candles, matches and kerosene lamps. Expectant mothers are sometimes even asked to bring water for cleaning and washing during their stay at a clinic.
Buying these resources was a problem, says Chasamuka. “My husband has never been employed,” she explains. “As a family, we depend on working in other people’s fields in return for either food, money or clothes. It was therefore difficult for me to buy the required supplies.”
For her next two children, she decided to give birth at home due to the expense. “I was assisted by a village midwife, and fortunately it went well,” she says. As is common here — almost 22 per cent of women in Zimbabwe give birth without skilled health care staff present — the midwife Chasamuka used did not have formal medical training.
The situation is made worse in rural areas like Chasamuka’s where energy access is a major problem. The most recent World Bank data shows that, in Zimbabwe, 83.4 per cent of people in urban areas have access to electricity, as compared to 9.8 per cent in rural areas. This is despite the fact that 68 per cent of the country’s 16.2 million inhabitants live in rural areas. In serious need of electricity, the Mazuru clinic turned to solar energy.