Help local experts keep people healthy
11 March 2020
Local experts are trusted because they are familiar to and understand the communities they support. This Lent, you can help more experts like Sister Consilia keep people healthy.
In Gokwe, Zimbabwe, a group of pregnant mothers sit waiting in the shade for 34-year-old Sister Consilia. The Sister is inside. She is checking on a young mother and her son who is charming everyone in the check-up room with his broad, beaming smile. The little boy and his mum have a clean bill of health.
Sister Consilia is a pharmacist at the Mission hospital here in a more rural part of Gokwe in north-western Zimbabwe. She dispenses medication, conducts checkups and gives advice to pregnant mothers who are admitted to the hospital.
“The people who come to this centre are the poorest people,” says Sister Consilia. “Sometimes they don’t have enough to buy baby clothes or food for themselves.”
There can be up to 160 mothers staying at the hospital and the medical staff working here will see up to 60 people a day. However, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Livison works for CAFOD here in Zimbabwe supporting experts like Sister Consilia. He has seen how much the hospital means to the women. He tells me: “Some of the pregnant women will have walked up to nine miles to get here. There is no other option for them.”
Tackling the rise in women dying during pregnancy
According to a 2017 study by the Centre for Population Studies in Zimbabwe, Maternal mortality rates – the number of mothers who die while pregnant – have risen sharply over the past 25 years. ‘The rise,’ the study states, ‘is due to deliveries without skilled care in places
without appropriate or adequate facilities to handle complications.’
This tragic increase has also been affected by recent extreme food shortages caused by a drought in Zimbabwe. The drought had a devastating impact on the poorest families in the country such as those in Gokwe. UN estimates from July last year say that more than one in three rural families were close to starvation.
The effects of the drought for vulnerable people like the mothers at the hospital were compounded by Cyclone Idai which swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
The cyclone left families homeless, without essential supplies such as food and medicines. It also meant that pregnant mothers and babies were at extreme risk.
Not one mother or baby was lost last year
“Sister Consilia and her colleagues are so impressive,” says Livison. “Despite all of the challenges the people face here. Despite the difficulty finding food because of the drought. Despite the difficulty finding work because people are subsistence farmers. Despite the health challenges with diseases like malaria, cholera and typhoid, not one mother or baby was lost at the clinic. Not one.”
Success like this doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a while for her to say, but Sister Consilia admits that she works six days a week, most weeks of the year. The rest of the staff here work similar hours.
Sister Juliana is the head of the hospital and a nurse with years of training and study behind her. In the middle of a busy day, I ask her what motivates her:
“Helping people in this area is like helping my mother or my brother,” she says. “I see them coming and I see my family coming. When they go away, I feel pain if I haven’t helped them. If I can help, I feel joy because they are my family.”
A baby cries as Sister Consilia leaves to continue her work. But this isn’t a cry of pain, illness or hunger. This is the cry of a baby being born healthy.
Lent Appeal 2020
This Lent you can help more experts, like local pharmacist Sister Consilia, keep people healthy.