ArticlesHealthWomen In Politics

Female MPs plead with Govt to act on maternal health crisis

By Michelle Chifamba

Female legislators in Parliament have called on the government to honour its commitment towards attaining the universal goals of ending maternal deaths as well as attaining sustainable development goals in line with the SADC Protocol.

The SADC Protocol on Health contains articles which are key to sexual and reproductive health.

According to Article 16; state parties shall formulate coherent, comparable, harmonised and standardised policies in developing a surveillance system for monitoring maternal and new- born mortality and developing strategies that reduce maternal and new- born mortality.

However, the crisis in the country’s health care system has left many pregnant women stranded, as doctors and nurses are on an industrial action due to incapacitation and there are no drugs and obstetric supplies in hospitals and clinics.

Harare West legislator Joana Mamombe (MDC) said the crisis in the maternal health care is a reflection that the country is far from meeting its targets for SDGs Goal number three on good health and wellbeing.

“It means the Ministry of Finance has neglected its duty of supporting public health while focusing on state security, thereby exposing women and children. The government is supposed to make the issue of maternal health a priority since no woman should die while giving birth,” she said.

Mamombe added that “Government has a commitment to take several steps to address the maternal health care crisis in Zimbabwe that includes the provision of safety nets for expecting mothers to access urgent and quality care. The 2% tax being collected by government should be directed towards addressing the critical crisis of maternal health care in Zimbabwe.”

According to the legislatures, government should prioritise the wellbeing of women as they are the most affected whenever there is crisis in the health sector.

Proportional Representation legislator Tatenda Mavetera (Zanu PF) said Zimbabwe must live up to its commitment to International Conventions that it signed to and should put corresponding policies to support the commitments.

“It is sad that the country is failing to provide better health care service for expecting mothers. The current health care crisis means that there is an increase on child mortality thereby affecting population growth. The failure by government to improve the maternal health situation will result in women suffering from unforeseen diseases as they will be giving birth in environments that are not sanitized.

“The Ministry of Finance should come up with a more gender sensitive budget that invests more on health care service delivery and improve the welfare of women for instance training more midwives and giving better remuneration to doctors and nurses involved in assisting women to give birth,” she said.

Also speaking on the issue Mufakose legislator Susan Matsunga (MDC) said “It is not fair that the government is failing to provide safe and affordable reproductive health care for pregnant women.

“As the country commemorates the 16 Days against Gender Based Violence women in politics, women organisations and the civil society need to come together, march and demonstrate against the brutalities that women are facing.

“Women Parliamentarians also need to urgently move a motion in Parliament so that we call the government to action. The budget was announced but it means nothing when there is no implementation with regards to health care delivery,” she said.

Honourable Matsunga added that “Women are dying each time they are giving birth and the government must take necessary steps to save the lives of the women and children.”

The female legislators said government need to improve the way it is negotiating with its workers especially the doctors and nurses to prevent unnecessary loss of lives.
According to another Proportional Representation legislator Paurina Mpariwa (MDC), the maternal health service delivery situation shows that Zimbabwe is far behind it terms of trying to reach 2023 SDGs.

Mpariwa said instead of celebrating unsafe home deliveries the country ought to adapt to modern technologies that promote safe delivery and save lives of
both mother and child.

“Although the Ministry of Finance scrapped maternal fees, the situation in the country’s hospitals is not pleasant as pregnant women are being made to go under a lot of atrocities. Pregnant women are being asked to bring their
own delivery kits, water and candles.

“Instead of being celebrated for giving birth they are receiving the worst treatment. We are moving a motion in Parliament to push the government to act towards immediately addressing the challenges that women are facing,” she said.

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is a male journalist in Zimbabwe and has been practising since September 2009. He used to the editor for The Business Connect (newspaper) in Harare, has his own news website Tourism Focus which is biased towards the tourism sector. Daniel is also working with Magamba Network on their project called Open Parliament where they do live coverage of Parliamentary activities on Twitter and Facebook. He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum, is a member of Zimbabwe Small Broadcasters Association and a board member of Digital Communication Network. He holds a Diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA), a certificate in Youth leadership training from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a certificate in Citizen Journalism from Magamba Network and is currently a first-year student at Zimbabwe Open University studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Ethics and Organisational Leadership.

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