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Minister Says Zimbabwe Not Ready to Scrap Maternity Charges

Zimbabwe is not yet ready to scrap charges for pregnant women, Health Minister Dr. Henry Madzorera revealed Friday, dismissing reports in Harare that clinics and hospitals will in the next two weeks stop asking women and children to pay.

Madzorera said the government had adopted a policy to scrap user fees but was not ready to implement it just yet.

The minister said a feasibility study is currently being carried out to see whether the government can afford to scrap the user fees completely, adding it will only be around December that he would know whether funds to allow that would have been made available by the finance ministry.

Madzorera said the government should move quickly to bridge the gap left by the European Union, which is pulling out of a program that assisted pregnant women with complications to get blood transfusion for free.

He said Harare will tap into the Health Transition Fund, financed by the EU and other partner organizations, to ensure pregnant women continue to receive transfusion if required.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in Zimbabwe has worsened significantly over the past 20 years.

At least eight women die everyday while giving birth. This translates to a maternal mortality ratio of 725 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the Zimbabwe Maternal and Perinatal Mortality Study.

Meanwhile, the health ministry Friday launched an anti-smoking campaign in Binga, Matebeleland North Province, hoping to convince hundreds of thousands of tobacco smokers to quit the practice that kills about 6 million people around the world every year.

Binga South lawmaker and State Enterprises Minister, Joel Gabuza told VOA the anti-smoking campaign highlighted the dangers of smoking to the young and old alike.

Smoking is associated with fatal lung and heart diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among others.

Gabuza said the campaign also seeks to appeal to tobacco companies to stop misleading the public with glamorous advertisements that encourage the public to smoke without pointing out the dangers of lighting up.