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Maternal Deaths Surge in Zimbabwe; Deputy Prime Minister Urges Action

The number of women dying during delivery has increased in Zimbabwe from 725 deaths for every 100 000 live births to 960 deaths for every 100 000 live births, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe revealed Thursday.

The deputy prime minister, who is also the ambassador of goodwill for the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa told VOA that revitalizing the primary health care and the removal of user fees maternal care will go a long way in addressing the unacceptably high rate of maternal and infant mortality in Zimbabwe.

She said the inability by the majority of women to pay maternity fees contributes to this increase in maternal mortality.

The alarming new figures come at a time when the World Health Organization says Zimbabwe is lagging behind in its efforts to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development goals by 2015 on reducing child mortality, maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS.

Khupe said she will make an immediate follow up with the government and relevant donors for urgent disbursement of funds to be extended through the Multi-Donor Health fund.

She said the Finance Minister Tendai Biti had stated in his budget to set aside $10 million for maternal health care and that she will follow up on this promise at the next week’s cabinet meeting.

“I am committing myself and I will like to promise the women of Zimbabwe that I am going to make sure that in two weeks, at the latest, I want to make sure that something happens so that women don’t pay when they go to give birth.”

“When women give birth they are performing a national duty. Women are the backbone of our economy,” added Khupe.

“Women give birth to future presidents, to future prime ministers, doctors and future engineers you name it. And therefore they must not be punished for performing that national duty by paying money when they go to give birth.”