Government maternal user fee directive defied: Parirenyatwa

Some government hospitals and clinics have defied a government directive which compels health institutions not to charge maternal fees to expecting mothers and children under five years, said Minister of Health and Child Care, David Parirenyatwa, at Chitungwiza Central Hospital.

Alain Noudehou: Zimbabwe maternal death rate highly unacceptable
Alain Noudehou: Zimbabwe maternal death rate highly unacceptable

Addressing a United Nations 68th Anniversary Celebration gathering at the referral hospital, Parirenyatwa said it was unfortunate that government could not do anything about the defiance, which continued to put lives of poor women in danger.

He said defiant institutions cited viability challenges as the reason behind their continued demand for maternity fees from expectant mothers despite the government directive.

“Unfortunately, what government can only do is to pay hospitals for services provided to mothers when delivering babies,” Parirenyatwa said.

The health minister bemoaned poor working conditions in the health sector and blamed them for government’s failure to retain health professionals and lure back other skilled workers who took flight to the Diaspora.

Parirenyatwa said it was government obligation to provide attractive working conditions and provide efficient health services to its people.

He expressed disappointment at the nine percent of the national budget allocated the ministry by the minister of finance.

“It is unfortunate that the ministry of finance continued to allocate ministry of health insufficient funds, despite the Abuja Declaration stipulation that 15 percent of member countries’ national budget should go to health issue,” said Parirenyatwa.

He called on other partners to help fill up the gap.

The 68TH Anniversary was celebrated under the theme “For safer Motherhood in Zimbabwe”.

Speaking at the same occasion, the UN Resident Coordinator, Alain Noudehou, said there was still a long way to go before speaking of progress on maternal health when an estimated 3 000 women die every year in Zimbabwe giving birth.

Noudehou said this was an astonishing reality given that pregnancy was not a disease.

He said it was every individual’s responsibility and collective duty as families and as communities to reverse the trend.

“It is part of the commitment by the UNCT to work with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, development partners, community members and thought leaders in this country to raise awareness and advocate for more attention to be paid to the excessive mortality rate in Zimbabwe,” said Noudehou.

Noudehou said the deplorable situation affected everyone and it was about women’s right to access maternal health care.

He noted that between 1990 and 2010 when the global maternal mortality rate declined by 47 percent, approximately from 4 to 2 maternal deaths per 1000 live births, that for Zimbabwe actually increased by almost a third.

It was indicated that in Zimbabwe one woman dies for every 100 live births.

The rate is among the highest in the world and double the average rate in the Sub-Sahara Africa.

“The illness or death of a woman has serious and far reaching consequences on the health of her children, the welfare of family, the strength of her community and the economy of her nation,” noted Noudehou.

Noudehou said some studies had shown that children who lose their mothers in child birth were 10 times more likely to die prematurely.

It was revealed that estimates indicated that at least $130 million was lost annually in Zimbabwe due to maternal complications.

The figure accounted for over one percent of Zimbabwe’s national income.

Human attitudes and delays in seeking health care were cited as some of the contributing factors to maternal deaths.

The impact of hemorrhage, hypertension and infections could be reduced if mothers had access to postnatal care.

To help curb maternal deaths, the UN called for systematic actions in the health sector and well-coordinated preventive measures, complemented by effective partnerships.

With strong awareness raising campaigns and advocacy, the UN was optimistic that Zimbabwe would successfully reverse the course of the maternal rate.

The Anniversary held under the theme “for safer Motherhood in Zimbabwe” was attended by some 2 000 delegates from all walks of life.

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