Hospital Charges Women Per Scream

STORY BY Emily Kirkpatrick

Published: August 26, 2013

Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in Africa and, unsurprisingly, also one of the most systematically corrupt.

A New York Times investigation may have discovered that American births are “uniquely expensive,” but at least no woman has ever been made to pay five dollars per scream. According to a report by Transparency International, sixty-two percent of Zimbabweans said they paid at least one bribe in the past year alone. Lately, Hospitals have been charging women a screaming fee under the pretenses of “raising false alarm.” Although appalling, the $5 charge seems like a pittance, but when you take into account that the average annual income per person is about $150, all of those labor pain screams start to add up. Not to mention the hospital’s $50 delivery fee.

In a country where underemployment is 95% and poverty is a ubiquitous fact of life, birth seems to come at too high a cost. A mother who screams from pain a few too many times could find herself not only forfeiting half her family’s annual income, but actually end up in debt. In Transparency International’s follow up investigation, they discovered that women who can’t afford to pay their fees can essentially be held as collateral. New mothers are sometimes detained at the hospital and charged interest until their family is able to afford to pay the charge for their release. In addition to these exploitive practices, all these charges provide absolutely zero health or safety assurances, since according to the United Nations, on average, eight mothers die every day during childbirth in Zimbabwe.

After making these discoveries, Transparency International contacted Zimbabwe’s national healthy ministry via a formal letter, however nothing was changed. In fact, when they followed up on the issue, an official told the organization that the letter had been lost. Finally, TI was able to meet with Zimbabwe’s deputy prime minister and since then have received zero complaints about inforced screaming charges. The organization may have put a stop to this one absurd fee, however the exorbitant delivery charge still stands. Besides, this exploitation of women, during a time when their health should be of the utmost concern to all involved, is surely only the tip of the incredibly corrupt iceberg.

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