WRA Zimbabwe Calls on Government to Reconsider Decision to Set Maternity Service Fees to U.S. Currency
White Ribbon Alliance Zimbabwe is dismayed by the City of Harare’s pegging of maternity charges in United States dollars. The City of Harare announced on Thursday (16/07/2020) that, with immediate effect, maternity fees shall be US $25. This action results in the fluctuation of maternity fees depending on the week’s exchange rate. Maternity fees have increased by 1,334% from $120 Zimbabwe Dollars to $1,720 at this week’s exchange rate.
“The decision to set maternity services to U.S. currency places undue burden on women and families, and we urge the government to reconsider,” says Geraldine Nyaku, National Coordinator of WRA Zimbabwe.
Section 76 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that “Every Citizen and Permanent Resident of Zimbabwe has the right to access basic health-care services, which include reproductive healthcare services.” The right relates to both the right of individuals to obtain a certain minimum standard of health and health care, and the State’s obligation to ensure that certain standard of public health is generally attainable. The pricing structure arrived at by the local authority places access to maternal health care out of reach for many women. Exorbitant fees discourage expecting mothers from accessing medical care that they require. In addition, the Respectful Maternity Care Charter: Universal Rights of Women and Newborns stipulate that, everyone has the right to health care and to the highest attainable level of health. The introduction of the new maternal fees infringes on this right.
Zimbabwe, like many Sub-Sahara countries suffers from a heavy burden of maternal, neonatal and child mortality.The existence of COVID-19 has already exacerbated the stress and anxiety on pregnant women. Therefore, such hike in maternal fees will contribute to the increase in un-safe homebirths. Women who give birth in non-hospital settings are three times more likely to encounter complications and perinatal mortality compared with hospital births. The City of Harare needs to re-look at its position and take into account the need to achieve health outcomes and ensure that all women have access to respectful and high-quality maternity care.
Through the What Women Want campaign, White Ribbon Alliance heard from 1.2 million women from around the world. Among the top 20 demands for quality reproductive and maternal healthcare from women and girls globally, access to free and affordable services and supplies was one of them.
We call upon the City of Harare to take heed of these demands and re-consider the pricing of maternal health fees.
American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “Home births are three times more dangerous than hospital deliveries.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190304095841.htm (accessed July 17, 2020).