Monday, October 18, 2010

A call for Zimbabwe to stop paying debts

A debt forgiveness advocacy coalition says that debt repayments are preventing Zimbabwe's women from getting essential health care. The coalition called ZIMCODD says that Zimbabwe should stop getting loans from the big international lending institutions and stop paying of the loans they already made.

From the IPS, writer Stanley Kwenda tells us more about how debt affects health in Zimbabwe.

Indications are that many Zimbabwean women opt to give birth at home, with some children being born HIV positive because their mothers cannot afford the maternity fees or the fees charged at hospitals and clinics for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, according to the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD).

ZIMCODD is a coalition of organisations working on social and economic justice issues in the politically beleaguered southern African state. Its calculation of Zimbabwe’s debt as being 8,3 billion dollars includes interest costs.

Hospitals and clinics in Zimbabwe’s urban areas charge 250 and 50 dollars respectively in maternity fees. Delivering a baby at state hospitals with the help of a professional midwife costs 173 dollars.

Given that even civil servants mostly earn less than 200 dollars a month, the charges put health services out of reach for most citizens.

Says Tariro Chikwanha: "We cannot get AIDS drugs or drugs for opportunistic infections because they are too expensive." Even the tests to determine whether an HIV-positive person should go on to antiretroviral drugs are out of reach, costing 10 dollars each at state hospitals.

Chikwanha, who has lived with HIV for 13 years, is increasingly worried about the inaccessibility of health services in Zimbabwe. She founded DREAMS, an organisation that works with youths who are living with HIV and AIDS or are affected by it.

"Because of the cost most people give up and wait for death at home," explains Chikwanha.

She blames the country’s unsustainable debts levels for the dearth in state funds for public healthcare. The government has a so-called "social dimension fund" which is supposed to take care of these needs but it is virtually non-existent.

"Government debts are killing us as women. The government should stop getting more loans," Chikwanha told IPS. "We have enough money to look after ourselves. We have diamonds, platinum and gold. They should sell these minerals and get us money to live a better life."

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