Mothers, babies detained at Mpilo for non-payment

Several women told The Zimbabwean they were being ill-treated by authorities there because they could not pay.

“I was detained in the pre-natal ward for almost a day after I failed to raise $155 user fees. My sister had to come to my rescue - paying half of the amount. The balance is being taken from her monthly water account,” said Hilda Khumalo, younger sister to Tabitha Khumalo, the MDC-T MP for Bulawayo East. Tabitha confirmed that her sister was detained at Mpilo until she agreed to pay.

“I paid $155 for Hilda after she was detained at Mpilo. What these people are doing is very unfair,” she said.

Another mother, Charity Ndlovu, said she was also detained at the hospital failing to raise the user fees.

“I was detained for a night last year after delivering my baby boy. When I said I did not have the required money the accounts clerks insulted me saying I should have prepared for my pregnancy. After realising that I did not have any means to raise the money, I was referred to the social welfare offices in town,” said Ndlovu, whose husband is unemployed.

Some mothers have also been denied birth records for their babies after failing to raise the fees.

“I have not secured a birth certificate for my baby since last year because I failed to obtain a birth record. Government should do something about this,” said a mother who refused to be named for fear of victimisation.

Lizwe Jamela of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said his organisation was investigating. “We have heard reports of mothers and their newly-born babies being detained at Mpilo Hospital. This is illegal and we urge all those mothers to contact us,” he said.

Due to the high user fees, a lot of pregnant women are unwilling to visit clinics or hospitals - resulting in complications which led to death. An average of eight women die every day in childbirth.

The United Kingdom’s Department of International Development gave the Ministry of Health $120 million last week to help reduce maternal mortality.

But the money is yet to trickle down to those who most need it. The health sector has been operating on the goodwill of donors mostly from the west. The donation will support the Health Transition fund to the tune of $80 million. $30 million is for saving anti-retroviral drugs, $3 million for the resuscitation of community health committees and $3 million for monitoring these programmes.

In accepting the donation Health and Child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera described Britain –President Robert Mugabe’s sworn enemy - as Zimbabwe’s “all weather friend”.