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Lack of access to family planning pills in Lupane can cause unwanted pregnancies.
In the middle of a pandemic, Lupane has faced a crisis of limited health facilities. A significant challenge has arisen, access to women’s reproductive health services—a challenge that could have dire consequences.
LUPANE (The Citizen Bulletin) — A heavily pregnant Lorraine Dube carries her food bag as she slowly embarks on a Tshongongwe clinic journey for her check-up. She cannot walk properly because of high blood pressure. Her flip-flops are acceptable for walking exercises but are unforgiving on a two-kilometre round-trip trek from Jotsholo to Tshongongwe Clinic.
Lupane women face such predicaments because of the impact of COVID-19. Their right to Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) is limited as they fail to access sexual health services. The second wave of the pandemic which hit the country in January led to the closure of two rural clinics in Lupane, which played a pivotal role in providing sexual reproductive health services to most women.
Pregnant women and mothers to younger babies find it hard to access medical services as there are no clinics in their vicinity; this forces them to go to St Luke's hospital for baby clinic visits. This situation is not conducive because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Lupane and Jotsholo Rural Health Centres closed after eleven staff members from both clinics tested positive to COVID-19.
“I used to go for my regular check-ups at Jotsholo clinic, but after closure, they advised me to go to the nearest clinic called Tshongogwe Clinic. Jotsholo is close to my home, but now I have to walk to a farther clinic, and it's difficult for me since I'm heavily pregnant.”
Lorraine Dube, a pregnant woman
Fadzai Sithole says she is even worried that she may get pregnant again because her contraceptive pills which she used to get from nearby Lupane clinic are all finished.
“I have finished all my birth control pills since I'm unable to access other contraceptive measures. My worry is I may even get pregnant again,” Dube says.
Lupane District Medical Officer Dr George Mutizira says the health facilities had to be closed because there were no staff members to serve the public.
“When our staff tested positive, we took it upon ourselves to close the facilities because there was no more staff to serve the public as the staff members are in isolation,” he says.
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Women Institute for Leadership Development (WILD), an organisation that champions women’s rights, has complained about clinics’ closure and the inaccessibility of sexual reproductive health Services. Permanent Ngoma, WILD programs manager says the two clinics’ closure is a strain to most women in Lupane.
“The closure of rural clinics means women cannot access medication, and it affects women’s sexual reproductive health rights. Women in this area now cannot access family planning pills, which may cause unwanted pregnancy,” she adds.
“Most of the available clinics have been prioritising people who are ill, not people who just want some check-ups.”
Permanent Ngoma, WILD programs manager
However, Zimbabwe Women's Lawyers Association, legal Officer Lorraine Mubayira, says it is everyone's right to access Zimbabwe’s health services.
“Every woman should access health services, especially reproductive health services, with no hindrances,” she says.
Meanwhile, patients who need medical help are going to other nearby health facilities. Those in Lupane are referred to the Roman Catholic Church-run St Luke’s Hospital and those in Jotsholo—to Tshongogwe Clinic.
St Luke's Hospital
Dr Mutiziri, however, confirms that they are working on safe ways of reopening the clinics as the staff members who tested positive are still recovering.
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