Latest UN report says sanctions devastating on maternal health

Phillipa Jaja

The devastating impact of sanctions on the health care system in Zimbabwe has revealed a grim reality for pregnant women. Startling statistics show that a staggering 80 percent of anaemia cases among expectant mothers can be attributed to these economic restrictions, Review & Mail has learnt.

The dire consequences of these sanctions have resulted in 458 maternal deaths per 100 000 births in
the country. This alarming revelation sheds light on the urgent need for humanitarian intervention and relief to safeguard the lives of both
mothers and their unborn children.

A Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Alena Douhan, visited Zimbabwe from  October 18 to 28, 2021 at the invitation of the Government shortage of gasoline, lack of medicines, tests, equipment, and water in medical assistance are all attributed as causatives according to a report of the Special Rapporteur on sanctions’ negative impact on the country.

She asserts that sanctions, including secondary sanctions, and different forms of over-compliance by foreign banks and companies have had a significant impact on the population and the Government, exacerbating pre-existing economic and humanitarian challenges.

“The healthcare system as a whole is highly vulnerable to the imposition of unilateral sanctions, which cause high inflation, a deterioration in the population’s standards of living, and problems pertaining to the purchase, payment and delivery of necessary medicines, medical equipment and reagents.

“These issues, even with the declared existence of humanitarian exemptions in relation to medicines and food, in practice remain unresolved.
Manufacturing companies are often afraid to provide medical services or sell medicines, raw materials and equipment, spare parts
or software,” she said.

As a result, girls and women are at risk.

Traditional roles mainly assigned to women such as fetching water, cooking and searching for food coupled with problems concerning food shortages, water supplies and gas shortages affect women’s health as well according to the report.

Furthermore, sanctions result in negative economic outcomes that perpetuate women’s inadequacies in the assumption of the breadwinner role in the absence of men migration.

The report explains that women are left alone and forced to look for sources of financial support for themselves and their children, “despite the fact that they are often the first to lose their jobs, especially in rural areas, or because of women’s employment being most affected by sanctions (trade) as it is either fully or partially funded by the state (schools, hospitals, telecommunications system etc)

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