Child health cards scam exposed

Blessings Chidakwa-Herald Reporter

Syndicates of health personnel at some of Harare City Council clinics are allegedly creating an artificial shortage of child health cards so they can sell them for between US$10 and US$20 to desperate parents.

Child health cards are essential and are supposed to be provided for free and are often needed to prove a birth and, with the birth record and parents IDs, acquire birth certificates.

Other requirements are a birth record and parents identification documents.

In an investigation carried out by this publication at Warren Park Polyclinic, our reporter was linked to the syndicate by some local residents who supplied their contact details. Upon contacting one of them, a meeting was set up outside council premises at Magamba Hall where the transaction began.

Our reporter then met a male nurse wearing a navy-blue uniform, who without hesitation and in haste requested US$20 for a single child health card. The fee was said to also cover for the filling in of details on the card including the child’s date of birth and place, weight as well as routine checks ups since birth. Our reporter then negotiated and the price was subsequently lowered to US$10 which he paid in an instant while details for the form were being taken down.

He was told to wait for five minutes for the card which was produced in that time.

The reporter went on to verify details before it was taken for official stamping at a near-by private hospital and a few moments later, he was given the officially stamped child health card.

The reporter then later contacted the referees to the syndicate who confirmed being given US$2 as a token of appreciation by the nurse for referring to a “client”.

Ministry of Health and Child Care spokesperson Mr Donald Mujiri referred questions to Harare City Council director Dr Prosper Chonzi who yesterday confirmed that there were indeed anomalies which are now under investigation.

“Our team is on the ground right now in Warren Park. I am informed that there was a delivery done in October of cards which is failing to be accounted for.

“The ones which they are using right now were delivered in January so there is a discrepancy of births that occurred and cards used. It could be true that someone was hiding those cards and using them against our policy,” he said.

Dr Chonzi said the ones delivered in January are currently in use and no one should be made to pay anything.

“The team is currently at Warren Park going through everything, checking on each birth to see if it was given a child health card and serial numbers. But for now, they have cards for both boys and girls. There is something happening that we are investigating right now,” he said.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Mr Enock Dongo said nurses should immediately refrain from engaging in such unscrupulous acts.

“Government services which are supposed to be given to the public should be free and remain such that no one should sell Government products, which is criminal and unacceptable.

“As an association we do not support anyone who does criminal activities at work. We condemn that at the highest level. It is an abuse of Government resources depriving ordinary people who cannot pay,” he said.

Mr Dongo said nurses were essential services providers hence they should never jeopardise the trust bestowed on them by the public.

“We urge our nurses that they desist from doing that with immediate effect. Moreso nurses are respected cadres in the society and if the public lose confidence with them that is unacceptable, they should conduct themselves professionally,” he said.

Mr Dongo also said there was a need for the Government to ensure adequate supply of the cards at all times so that there is no room for exploitation.

Combined Harare Residents Association director Reuben Akili said the creation of fake shortages by public health professionals was worrying.

“We have been working together with the city health department to some extent engaging the Home Affairs Ministry on this matter. This also included again the issue of faking the unavailability of birth records. Then at the end of the day people are fined. 

“It is worrying, this a serious human rights violation in terms of issues relating to right to identity as provided for in the Constitution,” he said.

Mr Akili, however, said the trend was decreasing following engagements with the city health director. “We cannot allow some individuals in councils to violate human rights willy nilly,” he said.

A top Government health official who preferred anonymity said there was indeed a time when the health cards were in short supply, but the situation was swiftly addressed.

“It is actually a shock worrying that something like that is happening. There was a temporary shortage of child health cards sometime last year, but was hurriedly resolved. So, it is unfortunate and shameful that some officials decided to take advantage of a past situation,” said the source.

Corruption has been rampant in the council-run local authorities, with this publication having exposed some of the scams.

Some women who gave birth at Glen View, Mabvuku and Highfield suburbs claimed that health personnel at the clinics were demanding bribes to issue birth records.

Council officials were said to be demanding kickbacks ranging between US$5 to US$10 to issue out birth records for newborn children which thus hindered many from accessing the critical birth certificates.

Further allegations were that the clinic health personnel were also creating an artificial shortage of birth record books as a deliberate strategy of forcing desperate mothers to offer bribes.

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