My sister has been living in Zimbabwe for the past two years or so, conducting research for her PhD dissertation. Yes—Zimbabwe, with the hyper inflation beyond imagination, the stolen election, the ongoing power struggle, poverty and hunger, and so on. (Apparently, there’s now also a cholera outbreak, which my sister has not mentioned to me….)
Every so often I read a blog that offers various updates on life in Zimbabwe, and though I read the following post several weeks ago, it hasn’t left my mind. There are so many tragic tales out of this country—I can’t even think about the atrocities and suffering leading up to the cancellation of the election last spring—but somehow this story from a pregnant woman really brings everything down to a personal level that is, for me, truly heart-breaking.
Here’s the post:
The life of a pregnant woman in Zimbabwe
Posted on October 31st, 2008 by Fungisai Sithole. 1 comment filed
“Because of the challenges and difficulties I am exposed to on a daily basis I wake up with pains all over my body. My body is mostly swollen and weak. My doctor tells me that my blood pressure levels have gone high. She tells me that I need to rest, but I cannot afford rest, I cannot afford to be sick. Not in this environment where I am subjected to economical, social, political and psychological frustrations. My bulging stomach has become representative of the problems I endure on a daily basis and an antithesis of the joys of womanhood and every growth of my tummy is an increase in my pain, frustrations and agony. I long for joys of motherhood but the environment I live in makes sure I can only long and dream of how it feels to be pregnant in an environment where I can afford the basics – a reality that remains an elusive quest.
“Every day I wake up with worries and serious issues of concern regarding my pregnancy. I am employed but nothing seems to balance and work for me. I have to think of ways of raising money for my next appointment with my gynaecologist and for the hospital delivery charges and the doctor’s delivery fee. All these are charged in US Dollars. I have even attempted to apply to the Reserve Bank for the authority to withdraw cash in excess for the 50 000 daily limit but with no success as the whole financial system is corrupt and dysfunctional. Every day that passes brings an element of fear and anxiety as I still do not know when and how I will be able to raise the monies.
“The doctor and the hospital fees are just one of the few elements I have got to worry about. Most of my clothes can’t fit anymore. I need new big clothes to accommodate my growing body and for my baby. The clothes are very expensive. I move around shops daily hoping to find something affordable but have no luck. I have money in the bank but can only withdraw fifty thousand dollars a day which only covers my one way transport costs to work. The cheapest clothes I can get are around 700 to 800 thousand dollars and I am expected to pay for them in cash. The shops do not accept cheques or transfers. The prices change on a daily basis and have no idea how I am expected to raise such figures a day. In Zimbabwe being pregnant has grown to be some form of punishment whose fine no one seems to know.
“The sad part is dealing with my cravings. The environment in Zimbabwe just wipes away the joys of womanhood. Everything is a frustration for me. I can’t seem to find things I crave for and if I do the price just thwarts the excitement completely. It is an unfathomable task to afford a basic healthy diet something I need seriously in such circumstances. Sometimes my appetite just fades as eating the same vegetables and sadza everyday is a pain to me. I lead a miserable life and cannot wait for the day I will deliver and look at the new challenges.
“With my mind dawdled with the challenges and frustrations of pregnancy, after work I get to a home without electricity and water. I now have to fetch water from a nearby school borehole and make fire as no one knows when the electricity will be back. I now view pregnancy as a burden and the burden is made worse by the miserable living conditions I am expected to endure every day. I dread the day my baby will be born in this environment and I shudder to think if he or she will be able to survive in this mire.”
The blog is called Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists, and if you're interested, you can read more here.