Maternity fees are big issue in Zimbabwe. If a woman cannot afford clinic payments it could be the difference between a healthy delivery and a dangerous birth. In a country that has a maternal mortality rate of 960 per 100,000 live births, (120 times higher than in Europe or north America) free care is vital. But Zimbabwe struggles to provide maternity services for all.
The Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre & Network (ZWRCN) in partnership Micah Challenge Zimbabwe is raising awareness about this issue. On August 17th women leaders in church, the health system and civil society are invited to a Gender and Development (GAD) Talk on maternal health specifically on the subject of maternity fees.
The recently announced official scrapping off of maternity fees - though a welcome development to women - was met with mixed reactions. Some have argued that the move is not sustainable or practicable. And to back this view it is emerging that while maternity fees are officially scrapped off in all state-run hospitals and clinics, women are still being made to pay for maternity related services.
Polite Matibiri, who works on maternal health issues with Micah Challenge and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe says, “We know the reality on the ground. Pregnant women are often expected to make payments when they go for their birth. They might have to pay for the birth registration – without a certificate you can’t enroll your child in school.”
The discussion in Harare will unpack the provisions and guidelines governing maternity fees and look at the reality on the ground. Naome Chimbetete, Executive Director of ZWRCN, says, “We want to gauge public opinion and provide an awareness raising platform about the implications of the policy.”
Micah Challenge Zimbabwe hopes the discussion will contribute meaningfully to the national endeavour to attain the health
Millennium Development Goal (MDG) outcomes by 2015.
Ms Matibiri sees the meeting as significant, “The outcomes of the discussion will be central in guiding and informing our advocacy efforts on maternal health. It is very positive to be working with other groups so that our voice is more effective.”
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