A hospital in Zimbabwe has been charging mothers-to-be $5 for each scream they let out while giving birth.
A report by Transparency International found that nurses in the economically-struggling country charged the $5 penalty for “raising false alarm.” The hospital also charged a $50 delivery fee, which is a third of the the average annual income in the country. Because of the high cost of delivering at the hospital, many women have no choice but to give birth at home without any professional help.
According to the report, women who were unable to pay the fine or delivery fee were detained at the hospital and charged interest.
Transparency International Zimbabwe contacted the country’s Ministry of Health, but received no response. They then contacted the Deputy Prime Minister, Thokozani Khupe, who called upon the Minister of Health to investigate maternal health issues as part of a broad review of the national health system. Since then, there have been no further complaints.
Maternal mortality in Zimbabwe is almost 50 percent higher than the average in Sub-Saharan Africa. The latest report by the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey found that the country’s maternal mortality rate is now 960 deaths per 100,000 live births. That rate is three times more than the global average of 287.
“While globally there has been a 34 percent decline in the maternal mortality ratio from 1990 to 2008, Zimbabwe has experienced an increase from 283 deaths per 100,000 in 1994 to 960 in 2010-2011,” the report said.
In some areas, women have had to provide some of their own materials for delivery because hospitals can’t afford them.
“Although the government said they scrapped maternity fees at all government institutions, some clinics still charge consultation fees. Others require expectant mothers to come in with their own cotton wool and methylated spirit,” Zimbabwean freelance broadcast journalist Onai Petra Abote wrote. “In some reports, pregnant women have had to bring along a 25-litre container of water and candles; hospitals are not immune to water cuts and power outages have become somewhat of a norm in Zimbabwe.”
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[Photo credit: Foto-grafic Africa / Flickr]