A third of Zimbabwean women lack access to postnatal care as a result of costs involved, a recent study by Amnesty International has shown.
The research, titled: “I never thought I could get healed from this”: Barriers to treatment and human rights abuses against women and girls with obstetric fistula in Zimbabwe, was carried out between January 2018 and October 2020.
Serious maternal morbidity, obstetric fistula, should be diagnosed within postnatal care.
“However, a third of women in Zimbabwe experience barriers to postnatal care, according to the latest demographic health information,” says the report.
The report says women reported to have been quoted between US$150-US$4000 for the costs of obstetric fistula surgery.
“In addition, women who shared their experiences with Amnesty International, reported leaving hospital after giving birth with astronomical bills of hundreds of dollars which did not cover the costs of treatment for obstetric fistula,” says the report.
“Such debts increase household poverty and further prevent women’s access to treatment for their injuries. One woman, Patricia, had undiagnosed incontinence since she gave birth to her sixth child in 2008. She explained that she knew there would be fees involved if she needed surgery as she had paid US$25 to repair a tear following the birth of her third child in 1998, “I knew I would have to pay again and I could not get the money, so I did not go back”.
The report says it was community health workers who linked Patricia to the Ministry of Health and Child Care Program and gave her the toll-free number.
“Although she had been diagnosed with an obstetric fistula, she was unable to afford the costs of transport to health facilities or the hundreds of dollars in medical fees for treatment,” says the report.
The report says Patricia stayed in hospital for over a month after her childbirth injury and was left with a bill of US$1400, but this amount related only to her hospital stay and did not cover treatment for her obstetric fistula.