The Ministry of Health has disclosed that Zambia recorded 797 maternal deaths in the year 2017.

Speaking the Chiefs Indaba at Mulungushi International Conference Centre, Friday, a representative from the Ministry of Health said the ministry revealed that some of the women who died were below the age of 18.

“Just in 2017, a total number of 797 maternal deaths were recorded. The ministry working with our partners have actually done a lot to try and bring these numbers to levels that are acceptable. So some of the interventions that we are putting in place are the following; so as a ministry we have been working with our royal highnesses to try and give information to our communities on maternal health issues. When you look at the number of the deaths that we had, some of the women that died were children below the age of 18 years. Some of the challenges we have faced include low demand for family planning to prevent the high number of maternal deaths, cultural and traditional beliefs, high teenage and child marriages, increased number of pregnant women dying of trauma and home deliveries,” disclosed a Ministry of Health representative.

And in an interview on the sidelines of the indaba, Chief Chibale of the Lala people of Serenje attributed the rise in maternal deaths to lack of emergency vehicles in rural areas.

“In the rural setup where we are, our health centres are not provided with transport which is supposed to be on standby just at the centre. Each time they have an emergency, that is when they have to call for an ambulance from the Boma. Now you can imagine what it takes to reach the facility, for somebody to communicate with the Boma and then they organize for the vehicle to come and then take the patient to the hospital. So during that time, I think if there is anything serious that can happen, that is the time it happens. So what we require is maybe the standby vehicles or ambulances to be based in the rural centres there,” chief Chibale said.

“And then if it is not a maternity case, transport is never provided for any sicknesses. So this indaba might help reduce the numbers [of deaths] especially where they are saying that they want to reduce the numbers of referral cases, they want to improve the health centres so much that all the services will be provided there and then. And maybe we might cut-down on these deaths. Really, we get to worry because sometimes they even come to the palaces to ask for transport when there is an emergency.”

And the traditional leader appealed to the Ministry of Health to liaise with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development over the need to improve the road network for easy patient transportation.

“There are so many challenges especially with the road network. We pray that as Ministry of Health, if they can work hand in hand with the Ministry of infrastructure to convince the Ministry of Health that for them to transport patients and medical drugs nicely, they need good roads. It might work since they are saying that they want to use the multi-sectoral approach,” said Chief Chibale.