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False Alarm' Fee: The Hospital in Africa That Actually Fined Mothers for Screaming During Childbirth


Imagine someone trying to enforce library-style rules for silence on a maternity ward.

Pretty ridiculous, right? Of course it is.

Now imagine someone trying to enforce said rules by imposing a $5 “false alarm” fee on any woman who shouts during childbirth.

It may sound like a joke, but a hospital in the notoriously corrupt county of Zimbabwe actually charged women for shouting during childbirth.

“Corruption is so systemic in Zimbabwe, one of Africa’s poorest countries, that a local hospital charges mothers-to-be $5 every time they scream while giving birth,” the Washington Post reports, citing a new report from Transparency International.

The Transparency International report adds that roughly 62 percent of Zimbabweans say they paid various officials a bribe in 2012.

“The $5 hospital screaming fee, purportedly a charge for ‘raising false alarm’ [is] clearly aimed at separating mothers from their money,” the WaPo report continues.

“Gross domestic product per capita is only $600 in Zimbabwe; average annual income per person is about $150. Zimbabwean hospitals also charge a $50 delivery fee. This means that, in a country where underemployment is 95 percent and poverty is rife, a mother who screams a few times during delivery might owe half her annual income after giving birth,” it adds.

So what about the women who couldn't afford the “false alarm” fee? What about them? It’s about as awful as you’d think.

“[W]omen who can’t afford the high fees are sometimes detained at the hospital and charged interest until their family can pay up,” the Post report continues.

Because the cost of giving birth in  hospital is so expensive, many Zimbabwean women opt to give birth at home. But it’s pretty dangerous.

“[O]n average, eight mothers die during childbirth every single day in Zimbabwe,” the report adds, citing a U.N. report.

The WaPo continues:

Transparency International says its Zimbabwe office contacted the national health ministry about the issue by sending, as such offices often require, a formal letter. The health ministry said it had received the letter, then apparently did nothing, and when the NGO followed up an official told the organization that they had lost the letter.

Finally, a member of Transparency International was able to meet with Zimbabwe’s deputy prime minister, who promised to look into. Since then, the NGO says, it’s heard no more complaints about screaming charges – although the $50 delivery charge, impossibly expensive for many in Zimbabwe, remains.



Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Featured image Getty Images.

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