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Maternity fees costing lives - WAG
Phyllis Mbanje, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
November 03, 2013

Failure by government to scrap maternity user fees is significantly contributing to the galloping maternal mortality in the country, a local women’s lobby group has said.

Women’s Action Group (WAG) director, Edna Masiyiwa blasted the Ministry of Health and Child Care for failing to fully roll out the “free maternity user policy” which would encourage more women to give birth in health facilities.

At least 960 maternal deaths occur per 1 000 live births in the country.

Speaking at Chitungwiza Central Hospital during the commemoration of the United Nations Day which ran under the theme For Safer Motherhood in Zimbabwe last week, Masiyiwa said a lot of women were opting to give birth at home because they were failing to raise the user fees.

“If complications arise when one has given birth outside the health facilities, chances are that they might die, as there would be no skilled personnel to help them,” she said.

The WAG director indicated that health institutions were charging between US$25 and US$30 for maternity fees.

“This figure might appear small but an average woman in this country cannot afford it. We call it ‘urban poverty’, and we implore the responsible authorities to address this matter urgently,” said Masiyiwa. “The policy, if implemented, will compel every pregnant woman to give birth in a health facility.”

But Minister of Health and Child Care, David Parirenyatwa said the health institutions were defying the government directive to scrap the user fees for pregnant women and children less than five years of age.

“It is very unfortunate, but the health institutions are disobeying a government directive saying they will collapse if they give the service for free,” he said.

Parirenyatwa said until funds were secured to cater for the facility, it would be difficult to take any action against the institutions which include council clinics.

In August this year, Harare City Council (HCC) health services director, Stanley Mungofa admitted that local authority clinics were charging for maternity fees.

He said scrapping user fees would seriously compromise service delivery in the whole city.

Council of Chiefs representative, Chief Nyamukoho from Mutoko said male involvement was central in reducing maternal deaths.

He left the crowd in stiches when he explained a new concept of roping in more men called “Perekedza mimba yako”, (accompany your pregnant wife to the clinic).

“We have introduced a concept of “Perekedza mimba yako” whereby we try to encourage men to also take an active role in ensuring their partners get the necessary assistance from health facilities,” said Chief Nyamukoho.

UN resident co-odinator, Alain Noudehou said it was distressing that the country was recording 960 maternal deaths per 1 000 live births.

“Pregnancy is not a disease but it is killing women at an alarming rate. We need a holistic solution for this problem,” he said.

Noudehou said most women were not seeking postnatal care (PNC) despite the many complications that are encountered during that period.

“Of the more than 60% assisted deliveries, only half turn up for PNC and yet it is a critical part of the service,” said Noudehou.

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