Maternal Mortality in Zimbabwe: Frank Donaghue on SW Radio Africa

PHR CEO Frank Donaghue was recently interviewed by award-winning Zimbabwean journalist Violet Gonda about PHR's new report, Health in Ruins: A Man-Made Disaster in Zimbabwe. Gonda and SW Radio Africa are based in London, from where they are forced to broadcast in exile to Zimbabwe. Donaghue told Gonda about some of the things he learned first-hand during the investigation for the Health in Ruins report.

FD: We know that there’s no obstetric care. If a woman wants or needs a C section in Zimbabwe, and obviously there are private hospitals, a C section in the Avenues Hospital costs $3000. Who can afford that? And so the solution, I asked a doctor what happens if you don’t have the $3000 and she said “You die”.

VG: And this $3000, this is $3000 US dollars?

FD: US dollars in a private hospital. And so we went out to some of the mission hospitals, and thank God there are mission hospitals, but as you know they are primarily out in rural regions. And now people that have some money can afford to get to a rural hospital like Howard and get treatment. A C-section there costs US $15 but there are very few people that have the US $15 or the money to transport themselves out to the hospital to get there. And yet the hospital is overflowing with people. And so the poorest of the poor of the poor have no healthcare in Zimbabwe. Mr Mugabe and his regime have signed onto a number of international covenants and commitments with the United Nations and other civil societies to protect the life of his citizens. He is in gross violation of those covenants and therefore we’re saying the United Nations has the responsibility to step in and we’re suggesting the United Nations through its power, and they have that power, to take over the health system, the sanitation system and anything that relates to the health of the people – put together a consortium of non-profit organisations and non-government organisations to take care of those until the rightful government is put in place in Zimbabwe. And we know the rightful government was elected in March.

Donaghue continued:

Let’s take childbirth, the maternal mortality. Ten years ago, twelve years ago the maternal mortality rate in Zimbabwe was about 138 to 100 000 births. In 2005 that number had risen to 1100 out of 100 000 births. If you can imagine, 1100. Who knows what has happened in the last three or four years since that statistic has been developed by the World Health Organisation. So the problem is, based on the regime, so many things have collapsed, there is no real adequate data collection and of course there is total denial by the government that any of these issues exist. I mean the life expectancy of an individual in Zimbabwe today is about 34 years old, where 15 years ago it was mid-60s. And Mr Mugabe would not admit that people are dying of starvation, he told regional health ministers not to report cholera.

Listen to the podcast of Donaghue's interview or read the full transcript.

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