Byo mothers plead with GVT for regional Cardiac Surgery centre as heart disease claims lives of 6 infants

By Precious Moyo 

SIX more babies have died from congenital heart disease related complications  (CHDs) in Bulawayo this year, as mothers continue to face challenges in accessing CHD medication at hospitals in the city. 

 “It is very painful that we have lost six babies from just within our group, not knowing about other mothers who are not part of us. The number might even be more if we follow up on parents. The passing on of one of our babies comes as yet another reminder that the battle of CHDs is real,” said Ms Tendai Moyo, the founder and Director of Brave Little Hearts, between sobs. 

Ms Tendai Moyo shared these sentiments following the passing on of one of the babies on Wednesday, after battling a heart disease at Mpilo Central Hospital, 

Ms Moyo. who founded Brave Little Hearts (an association of  mothers whose children suffer from CHDs) after losing her baby to a CHD related defect in 2017, said urgent action is needed to address the issue as babies continue to die.

“We have been pleading with Government through the Minister of State for Bulawayo to at least  help us find a way to deal with this matter. Almost every month a baby passes on because in our region we do not have a cardiac surgery to cater for patients. There is need for urgent action lest we continue losing our babies,” she said.

Ms Moyo said besides not getting money to fly overseas for surgeries, mothers couldn’t afford the medication prescribed for their babies by doctors while awaiting surgeries.

“Many of our babies are defaulting because the medication is very expensive. Parents cannot afford some of these drugs which in-turn affects the child,” she said.

The BLH director encouraged mothers to stand together in comforting each other and advocating for their children’s health rights.

“During such times l wish everyone to take a stand and make a difference by speaking out and be the voice of the voiceless little ones. No one can speak out better for us than us mothers who know the pain of loss and sleepless nights,” she said.

I urge all mothers to be part of the dialogues and meetings with our city fathers and resident minister and relevant stakeholders.

In a Whatsapp conversation between the Minister of State for Bulawayo provincial affairs, Judith Ncube and Ms Moyo, the minister said she has been engaging the Health Ministry to solve the plight. However, nothing has materialized yet.

“We have managed to also engage our local clinical director around Bulawayo to help us push for the program to take place. Once they finish their administrative issues we shall all be happy,” read a Whatsapp message from the Minister.

“I am sorry for the loss and condolences to the family. I went to Harare to make a follow up with the minister last week l had a meeting with the Permanent Secretary she gave me an impression that there was something that could be done .For the immediate engagement, they will engage the Italian doctors and for the long term they think US doctors can also be engaged though it may take a little while because they have to be vetted and cleared,” said the Minister.

Ms Moyo said they still pin their hopes on Government to act though the process is taking too long despite the minister pledging to assist them in December last year.

CHD is a heart problem which is present at birth and is caused by abnormal formation of the heart during foetal development.

In most cases, when a baby is born with CHD, there is no known reason for it although scientists suggest heart defects can be related to an abnormality in the number of an infant’s chromosomes, single gene defects, or environmental factors

In most cases, CHDs are discovered late and demand surgeries that are very expensive and usually only available overseas.

 Mpilo Central Hospital, which caters for patients from half of the provinces in Zimbabwe last had a cardiac surgery 11 years ago making the service out of reach for most parents as it is only locally accessible in Harare.