Heavily pregnant, scared and displaced in flooded Zimbabwe

Published: 8 March 2014 11:50 CET

Hansika Bhagani, IFRC

Surrounded by her five children, the youngest of whom is just a toddler, Gamuchirai Nhamo recalls spending three days in labour for each of their births. Now, she is in her ninth month of pregnancy with her sixth child and terrified about giving birth in the middle of the Chingwizi transit camp in southern Zimbabwe.

“I have no money for the bus fare to the hospital to have my child. I have no clothes for the new child,” she reveals. 

Giving birth in Chingwizi will undoubtedly be harder than any of her other labours. Here, water has to be trucked in from Triangle, nearly 80 kilometres away. There is a first aid clinic, but the medical facilities Gamuchirai needs to give birth safely are not yet available.

Gamuchirai and her children came to the camp after being airlifted by helicopter out of their village. “We had been told about the impending floods but they came too fast so we could not prepare,” says Gamuchirai. “My husband was away and there was no one to help me carry my goods. All I could take were some clothes and a few pots.” 

Gamuchirai and her children have joined approximately 300 other families at the transit camp. That number is quickly set to rise as thousands of Zimbabwean families displaced by unexpected flooding make their way to the camp from areas around Tokwe-Mukosi. They will be here for a number of weeks before they are given permanent resettlement plots and will have to restart their lives from the little they have salvaged.

“We lost our plowing tools for farming, our beds, because those could not fit into the helicopter. I am very worried about our livestock,” the 33 year old mother admits. Five days after settling into their tent provided by the Zimbabwe Red Cross, Gamuchirai receives the news she has been dreading to hear. Her husband has arrived at the camp. Out of their six cattle, he has found only one alive.

The family has received some items from the Zimbabwe Red Cross, including a kitchen set, some food and blankets. When asked what her greatest need is, Gamuchirai bursts into tears. “From experience, it is going to be a very tough delivery with my next child. It is going to be very difficult if I have to give birth here. I really need assistance to prepare for the baby and to have money so I can go to the hospital.”

There are between 40 and 50 pregnant women at the transit camp. The Red Cross does have a first aid clinic on-site, which is manned 24 hours a day. Volunteers try to make the women as comfortable as possible, but admit, having an ambulance at the camp would greatly help the situation. It is something which is being considered.

Aside from providing first aid, Zimbabwe Red Cross staff and volunteers are also promoting health and hygiene, and helping families to build their temporary shelters.  

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has released 263,518 Swiss francs from its Disaster Emergency Relief Fund (Zimbabwe floods DREF) to support families affected by the flooding for three months. Planned activities include shelter and emergency latrine construction, the distribution of hygiene kits and psychosocial support for children.

“It is a difficult situation but we are just leaving it to God,” says Gamuchirai, as her youngest crawls up onto her lap for a cuddle.

Faced with dozens of pregnant women, malaria, dog, snake and scorpion bites, and lacking proper medical treatment facilities, first aid volunteers at the Zimbabwe Red Cross are having to improvise while providing the best care they can to families at the camp. Next week on www.ifrc.org/africa, we look at the lengths volunteers are going to in order to treat the never ending line of patients.