The unavailability of these ‘baby cards’ has deprived mothers access to critical growth monitoring information, plunging the health of babies in jeopardy.
Health Ministry’s Family Health Director Dr Bernard Madzima told this publication the importance of these cards.
Madzima said that the cards monitor the weight, the height, the vaccination schedules whether they are on track.
“So that card is very vital because it can quickly tell you whether there is something abnormal to a child. We also have information on oral rehydration solution when the child has had diarrhea. So that card has very vital information. It is a very important tool to monitor the child’s growth history and you can quickly make a decision when you find something abnormal happening,” explained Dr Madzima.
On the unavailability of these cards, Dr Madzima noted and assured that this is something they are seized with.
“The cards, there has been challenges just like everything else in terms of availability. But we keep at it as a program and make sure they are available.
“Even when there are these challenges of availability at an institution, we try and make sure that in the districts and provinces, they can redistribute and make sure everyone is covered to make sure that every child gets that card when they are born,” he said.
A source said these cards have indeed been unavailable for a while now and government once upon a time used the old cards.
“You know they once gave babies the old ‘yellow’ cards which had since been phased out. After the yellow cards they started to colour code these cards where pink once were given to females and blue ones for males. But these obsolete cards have since depleted,” the source said.
Mai Shauna who spoke to this publication, said it’s close to three months without her child’s card. Upon giving birth to her first child, Mai Shauna shared her maternity card with her baby girl. This card, is the one a mother gets when she registers with a maternity clinic. It monitors her health up to the time she gives birth.
“I have been using this book for six weeks. When I visited our nearest clinic for the routine baby weight monitoring, I was told to buy that book used for those over five. In that book, they just give us the next day we are supposed to come but I don’t know about the vaccinations, how my baby is doing, all that stuff is a mystery to me and this worries me.
This not only worries me but a lot of mothers out there even those who gave birth at government hospitals,” she said. “What baffles us is the fact that the cards are printed on manilla paper which I don’t think is procured abroad to require foreign currency and could be printed by government printers.”
Should a mother want to travel abroad, the growth monitoring card is asked for by immigration officials of other countries.
When a child is born the birth weight and height is jotted down in the growth monitoring card. The card has information on good infant feeding practice, the normal growth pattern of a child, whether the mother is on Antiretroviral Treatment or not, the duration of labour among other things.