Monday, June 7, 2010

By Ndumeya Moyo (Local Governance Officer)

BULAWAYO - Scores of pregnant women on Bulawayo are finding it difficult to commence Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission medication due to the exorbitant maternity fees demanded at the Bulawayo City Council clinics.

According to the latest council minutes, the local authority is currently charging US$50 for maternity fees, this has become a deterrent for many pregnant mothers as they are unable to pay it all at one go. This in turn deters many from testing for HIV and further accessing PMTCT for the unborn babies.
Councilors raised concerns at Full Council meeting held on the 2nd of June 2010 that there was an increase in the number of children who have been commenced on A.R.Vs because their mothers had failed to access PMTCT services. They said that this is disturbing and measures should be taken to ensure that mothers could pay this amount in installments and at the same time allowing them to access treatment. It was felt that Council cannot allow a situation where people are sent back home without testing and accessing treatment. The Director of Health and the Chairperson of the Health, Housing and Education committee have since been tasked to come up with mechanisms that will enable expecting mothers to pay in installments.

The actual cost of the maternity service at a Council Clinic is US$78 but currently Council is charging US$50 and subsidizes the US$28. In as much as we might call for the further reduction of the charge, residents should be aware that further reductions might jeopardize the quality of such an essential service. However, it will be commendable for Council to agree on terms of payment for the expecting mothers so as to allow them to get tested and access PMTCT for their unborn babies. This information comes barely a week after the Chronicle reported that the number of HIV and AIDS related deaths is at 1300 per week.
Habakkuk Trust has been advocating for the Access to Treatment for People Living with HIV and AIDS and the HIV and AIDS Indaba that was held in March 2009 saw the Bulawayo City Council starting to implement a two month old resolution that was enabling People Living With HIV and AIDS not to pay consultation fees when going for refill their drugs.


BULAWAYO - The government has allocated US$7 million for the Mtshabezi pipeline but it is worrying that to date nothing has happened on site.

Councilors raised concern about the US$7Million that was given by the Government for the Mtshabezi pipeline to be connected to Umzingwane saying nothing has been done to date. Councilor Israel Mabaleka said there is need for an action plan to guide the process. He added that there is need to know the exact location of the money, suggesting further that it could be put in unit trusts and generate more for Council. Another Councillor and the Deputy Mayor Councilor Amen Mpofu concurred saying that the status of the project on paper should symbolize what is on the ground.

A total of US$21 Million is required for the success of this project but only US$7 Million was allocated. Councilor Gideon Mangena the Acting Chairperson for the Future Water Supplies and Water Action Committee concluded this issue by saying that Bulawayo needs water like yesterday, however Council has limited jurisdiction especially with regards the Mtshabezi pipeline. He said this is entirely the business of Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) as it deals with bulk water. In as much as the concerned Committee and Council might push for the success of the issue their hands are tied and short. The Mayor Councilor Thaba Moyo said there is need to push the issue further and that the US$7 Million that was availed is pathetic, there is need to engage Council to engage the residents at ward level to start lobbying the Members of Parliament and Senators from this region to put pressure to the concerned Ministry as soon as possible.

Access to clean and adequate water has been a critical advocacy issue that has come up in nearly all the urban and rural communities that Habakkuk Trust works with. The Bulawayo Advocacy Action Teams have pushed the water issue to an Indaba that was held in 2008 where various stakeholders who also included the City Council, Civic Society organisations, the Academia, residents and Water experts debated on the possible lasting solutions to the perennial water problems bedeviling the City. Though the Indaba resolved that the Mtshabezi - Umzingwane pipeline needed to be sped up, subsequent national budget allocations have seen little funds allocated to the project. The organisation has even engaged the Minister of Water Resources on the issue in order for the Ministry to give priority to the project.
Once completed the project is expected to increase the water supply to Zimbabwe’s second largest city and this will in turn catapult investment in the once Zimbabwe’s industrial hub.

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