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Khupe advocates for free maternity services in Zimbabwe

Thokozani-KhupeBy Veneranda Langa

HARARE (Newsday)-Giving birth is a national duty and women should not be made to pay maternity fees, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe (MDC-T) has said.

Khupe told Parliament that many women in Zimbabwe die unnecessarily while giving birth, with 725 fatalities per every 100 000 women.

“This translates to eight women dying every day while giving life,” said Khupe.

“When women are giving birth they are performing a national duty and therefore it is important that we prevent these deaths.”

She was responding to a question by Bulawayo Central MP Dorcas Sibanda(MDC-T) who demanded to know the government policy on reduction of maternity fees.

She said if women were to decide to refuse to fall pregnant, there would be no nation to talk about.

“All of you in this House came from a woman’s womb and if women in Zimbabwe were to stand up and say no woman must fall pregnant, what do you think will happen in the next 15 to 20 years?” she asked.

“This country would come to a standstill.”

Khupe said that was the reason why it was imperative for women to perform the duty of giving birth free of charge.

The DPM said maternity fees should be scraped as they contributed to increased maternal deaths since most women could not afford them. “Women die because of certain factors like lack of money for user fees or the $50 required for them to pay on registering their pregnancies,” said Khupe.

She said as a result most women did not register at health institutions and they ended up giving birth at home or seeking medical attention on the day they gave birth.

The campaign on accelerated reduction of maternal mortality rates would call for the complete removal of user fees so that women would not pay anything when they gave birth, Khupe said.

She said the shortage of ambulances also exacerbated the rate at which women die while giving birth.

“The reason why women die is because we do not have enough ambulances. If a woman develops a complication in Murambinda and is supposed to be referred to Harare (Central) Hospital, there is no ambulance to carry that woman and she ends up dying of complications,” she said.

Communication constraints, Khupe said, also added onto the problems as patients failed to phone for ambulance services.

“The other issue is lack of trained midwives and nurses because most of them left the country,” Khupe said.

Khupe said she had discussed the issue with Finance minister Tendai Biti to ensure funds were made available for women not to pay maternity fees.

She said maternity wards and hospitals should also be user friendly so that pregnant women were comfortable while in labour.