His target is to reach the neighbouring village, where a renowned traditional midwife lives before his groaning wife in the rusty wheelbarrow gives birth.
Hahlane heaves a sigh of relief on noticing that he is only a stone’s throw away from the midwife’s village where he is certain that his wife would get reasonable delivery assistance.
With no health institutions that offer midwifery services in some parts of Chikombedzi area in Masvingo province, traditional midwives have become popular among the villagers.
“We literally take the African phrase that says; ‘do not insult the traditional midwife if you still want to give birth’ seriously. This is so because they are our messiahs here. We do not rely on the nurses for birth,” says Hahlane as he carries his wife into one of the midwife’s huts.
Many expecting mothers from Hatsvukwe village under headman Jezana in Chief Sengwe area continue to give birth in the huts under the guidance of traditional midwives.
Most of them cannot walk to Chikombedzi Hospital, which is about 40km from their village.
There is no bus that plies that route.
“Even if there was one, I cannot raise the US$50 charged at the health institutions. This year, we did not raise enough produce from the fields to sell to get disposable income,” says Hahlane.
Masvingo provincial pedical director, Dr Robert Mudyiradima confirmed that many pregnant women in the province do not have access to pre-natal care.
“We still do not adequately cover rural areas. The ideal distance for the furthest health centre should be 10 to 15 km but that is not always the case,” said Dr Mudyiradima. “There are some areas really isolated that fail to benefit from heath facilities.”
The province, with an estimated population of two million people, has 169 clinics and 19 hospitals.
Dr Mudyiradima said the government is also working on scrapping user fees for expecting mothers.
“Government is working round the clock to remove user fees so that maternal services are offered for free,” he said.
He blamed the high maternal mortality rate, pegged at 725 deaths per 100 000 live births, to lack of access to health centres and delays to seek medical attention.
“We discovered that some women, especially in rural areas, do not even register their pregnancies at any health centre, or some register late, hence if they have complications, they risk losing self and baby,” said Dr Mudyiradima. “Some die at home before getting to the health centre.”
This is compounded by the shortage of doctors and midwives in the province.
“There is an acute shortage of midwives and this compromises quality health care. Normally, each ward at a clinic should have a midwife, while a hospital should have at least five but this is not the case,” he said. “We are also plagued by a shortage of doctors. Each district hospital should have at least four doctors, yet some are operating with one or two.”
Dr Mudyiradima added: “We also need more gynaecologists. You will be shocked to hear that there is only one gynaecologist for the whole of Masvingo province.”