GOVERNMENT run health facilities in Matabeleland North Province are experiencing a severe shortage of contraceptives.
Health facilities visited over the past month reported very low supplies or mostly no supplies of oral contraceptives, injectables and implants. The province is also facing a dire shortage of condoms, worsening the situation.
Health watchdog, Citizens Health Watch said the shortage undermines women’s reproductive health rights and increases the risk of unwanted pregnancies. There are also concerns that women maybe be forced to resort to unsafe abortions as a result of unwanted pregnancies.
The stock outs have been so severe in some of the facilities and they have gone for weeks without supplies. Health care workers spoken to said they had been told the situation might be alleviated after May when government is expecting a consignment of contraceptives. There are also justified concerns that the shortage of condoms may lead to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.
Many of the people interviewed in the province said they could not afford the contraceptives and were forced to do without. Private pharmacies were stocking some contraceptives but the prices are prohibitive with some pharmacies charging in US dollars.
Women interviewed said they were forced to switch to whatever brand is available but many said they were going without.
CHW trustee, Fungisai Dube said there was need to urgently deal with whatever supply chain issues there are. “Our worry is that young people will be forced to have unprotected sex, thereby increasing the risk of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.” The shortage of contraceptives will also impact teenagers with issues of teenage pregnancies.
Matabeleland province is one of the country’s poorest provinces and has the fourth highest number of teenage pregnancies. The province could continue to lag behind in its development if efforts are not stepped up to ensure reliable access to contraceptives. Family planning is a critical factor in reducing poverty.
“How do we meet our maternal health goals and promote family planning with these kinds of stock outs? Our national health systems need to be strengthened so we have reliable, steady supply of contraceptives country wide. “said Dube