A mother in Zimbabwe delivers four “miracle” babies

29 December 2014
Author: UNFPA
Nurse Langelisha Zamisa (left) and Elizabeth Moyana (right) hold Ms. Moyana's quadruplets at Chiredzi   General Hospital.© UNFPA Zimbabwe/Stewart Muchapera
Nurse Langelisha Zamisa (left) and Elizabeth Moyana (right) hold Ms. Moyana's quadruplets at Chiredzi General Hospital.© UNFPA Zimbabwe/Stewart Muchapera

CHIPINGE DISTRICT, Zimbabwe – It started out like any other delivery. When 24 -year-old Elizabeth Moyana went into labour in her village, Mabeya, near Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique, she wanted only to give birth to a healthy baby. But after encountering complications and undergoing emergency surgery, Ms. Moyana would have not one newborn – but four.

“All along l thought l was carrying a single baby,” she told UNFPA. “I delivered the first baby at our local clinic, but I remained in labour.”

The health workers realized something was wrong and called for her to be sent to the nearest hospital.

“It was then l had to be rushed to St. Peter’s Hospital, which is near our local clinic. When l arrived there, they immediately put me under a scan, and l was then rushed to Chiredzi General Hospital in an ambulance, as they had discovered that l still had more babies in my womb.”

By the time she arrived at the second hospital, she was bleeding profusely.

“These are true miracle babies, considering that when the mother was wheeled in here she had lost a lot of blood and had suffered post-partum haemorrhage and many complications associated in being in labour for too long,” said Langelisha Zamisa, the nurse in charge of the hospital’s maternity ward.

Ms. Moyana was immediately whisked into an operating theatre, where surgeons performed a Caesarean section and delivered her three remaining babies. 

The four children – three boys and a girl – were all healthy. Ms. Moyana named them Godwin, Godknows, Godfrey and Getrude.

A world of difference

Only five years ago, Ms. Moyana’s story would have been very different – and likely tragic.

Following years of chronic underfunding, the Zimbabwean health system was in a state of decay. Many skilled health workers had left the country, and most health facilities had only outdated hospital equipment. Stock outs of essential medicines and commodities were common.

During this period, maternal deaths rose sharply. Zimbabwe’s 2010-2011 Demographic and Health Survey revealed a maternal mortality ratio of 960 per 100,000 live births – a striking increase from the 1999 estimated of 695 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

Alarmed by the rising death rates, health experts sought to improve the country’s obstetric and newborn care. International donors began to support health centres, hospitals and skilled birth attendants. Ms. Moyana and her four children benefited from these life-saving programmes.

Ms. Moyana was transported in an ambulance procured through a European Union grant. She was treated in a hospital newly refurbished by H4+, a partnership of UN agencies, including UNFPA, as well as governments and civil society groups. And her C-section was performed by medical staff supported by the UNFPA-backed Health Transition Fund.

Unexpectedly large family

Ms. Moyana has two other children as well – six-year-old Bongai and three-year-old Judith. With four more mouths to feed, she knows she has her work cut out for her.

Her husband is a migrant worker in South Africa, and Ms. Moyana struggles to afford clothes and supplementary milk for the infants. “The babies are always crying as l cannot produce enough milk,” she said.

Even buying milk can be difficult in her rural corner of Zimbabwe. “It takes a while for the milk to arrive here even when my husband sends it,” she added.

But she is no less grateful for her unexpectedly large family.

“To hold these forms in my arms and be here to tell you my story is a miracle,” she said.

Population : 17.3 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 44%
Girls 44%

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