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The secret garden

A baby gets measured.

Along with vaccines and treatment, health workers track and record their patients’ development and progress. This baby gets his measurement taken.

In regions of Zimbabwe, there is a religious sect that prohibits its members from receiving medical care. Unfortunately, this can result in many women dying during childbirth, and from other maternal health complications.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 800 women die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth – with 99% of these deaths occurring in developing countries.Without essential health care and vaccinations, their children – particularly those under the age of 5 – are also left vulnerable to deadly diseases.

Plan is helping reduce maternal and infant mortality in Zimbabwe through a secret clinic, disguised as a garden. In these safe spaces, women and children can access the healthcare they need, in confidence.

Guardian gardens

Evans lives in the village with his wife, who works as a village health worker with the support of Plan International. After seeing so many children dying in the community, Evans and his wife decided to generously donate their vegetable garden as a safe venue for one of the clinics.

“We work in secret to protect women who have to visit the clinic against their husbands’ wishes,” says Evans. “What motivates me is seeing healthy children and families.”

The women travel great distances to visit the clinic and receive lifesaving medicine and treatment for themselves and their children.

Vimbai was moved to attend the clinic after losing 3 children within the span of 5 years – each from preventable diseases like the measles, malaria and the flu.

“I saw that it was best to seek medical help here, from the diseases my children were contracting. I found out with medical help… these were actually treatable,” she says. “The community health workers are very helpful to us.”

Chipo is currently 2 months pregnant and her husband does not approve of her seeking medical care. However, after learning of the secret clinics from her sister-in-law, who has two healthy children, she felt motivated to secretly attend.

Health workers assist a mother in a field.

Health workers assist this expectant mother, while hidden beneath the protection of crops.

“I realized that it was best to get help in the early stages of my pregnancy here at the garden clinic, with the community nurses. I am happy to be coming to this garden clinic because I am confident that I will give birth to a healthy baby,” she says.

A shield for better health

This unique initiative is just one of the ways Plan has been working to save the lives of mothers and children, ensuring a brighter future for women like Chipo, Vimbai and their children.

“Even though we have to come to this secret place for treatment, we are finding it very beneficial,” says Vimbai. “I am very happy to be holding my two children today,” she adds, with a smile.

Like Evans and his wife, you have the opportunity to save lives. By supporting the health of babies in developing countries you can give children the best possible start to life.

*Names of individuals have been changed to protect their identities.