Zimbabwean women are calling on the government to scrap maternity fees as hospitals continue to detain mothers who fail to pay maternity fees after giving birth.
The 2016 pre-budget consultative meeting, conducted by the Parliamentary Portfolio of Finance and Economic Development, was told Monday by women at the Mucheke Hall in Masvingo, south of Zimbabwe, that women are losing lives unnecessarily as they stay at home to give birth fearing detention if they failed to pay.
The women came in their numbers so their voice can be heard in time for the finance minister to factor in their concerns as he prepares his 2016-2017 national budget.
Their argument is that they are producing for the nation and should not be penalized for failing to pay exorbitant fees being charged by clinics and hospitals, especially as families struggle to make ends meet.
Tsitsi Muwonda of Mucheke high density suburbs said with the country’s economic woes continuing to worsen, women just cannot afford to pay the fees.
“We cannot afford to pay the huge amounts that hospitals demand when we go there to give birth,” said Muwonda.
“We therefore are urging the government to remove the user fees as we are now being forced to give birth at home, which is really dangerous and risky.”
The women told the committee that many women are now taking the risk and giving birth at home and in the process exposing themselves and their unborn babies to the HIV/AIDS, in the case of women living with the virus who transmit it to their babies. There also could be other complications that normally come with child birth, they argued.
Government hospitals charge between 60 and 80 dollars for a woman to give birth. The fees vary from place to place.
Janet Gumbo said the majority of the country’s women are currently challenged with their husbands out of jobs, they just cannot raise the required amounts raising the need for the government to intervene.
“We want the issue of expecting mother to be attended to as we are being forced to give birth at homes and the streets,” said Gumbo.
“We are afraid of going to the hospital because we just cannot afford to pay even though we are doing a great job of producing for the nation.”
Parliamentary Portfolio committee acting Chairperson, Dorothy Mhangani, who’s also a legislator from Gokwe, told reporters after the meeting that in most areas the committee has been to so far, the number one issue being raised by women is the need for the government to scrap maternity fees.
“We had a lot of recurring issues and these include women who appealed for the scraping of the user fees for expecting mothers,” she said.
“The women urged government to look into this issue as they were facing challenges to afford them. The women said some were losing lives while giving birth at home because they can’t afford to pay for the high user fees.”
While women being mothers concentrated on the issue of health, men led the calls for the government to reduce its budgetary allocations to the defense ministry and use the resources to fund health and education.
The public consultative meetings are meant to help shape the country’s budget which is expected to be tabled in parliament sometime this month.