Undeterred by the hefty duty imposed on a consignment of sanitary pads donated to Zimbabwean women hit by rocketing prices, the country's labour federation plans to import them regularly.
"We are going to bring the sanitary pads in every month, otherwise it is a pointless exercise," explained Wellington Chibebe, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
After an appeal on a South African radio station at the beginning of the year, the ZCTU collected 12 million pads in South Africa last month, but the consignment was stuck in Johannesburg when Zimbabwe's Revenue Authority refused to waive a US $7,000 duty because the union was not registered as a charitable organisation.
"We have managed to raise the money for the duty through our various well-wishers and we should receive the consignment in three weeks," said Chibebe. ZCTU is conducting a provincial needs assessment and will then distribute the pads through its affiliates' branches. Women employed in the informal sector will also have access to part of the consignment at branches of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Sector Association.
A packet of 10 sanitary pads costs US $10 in Zimbabwe, where the average salary ranges between $50 and $100 a month. Unable to afford the pads, most women have to resort to unhygienic alternatives, which could have long-term effects on their reproductive health, according to Zimbabwean activists.
The country in the throes of a severe economic crisis, with inflation at almost 800 percent as a result of recurring poor harvests and the government's fast-track land redistribution programme, which disrupted agricultural production and slashed export earnings. The government blames unofficial sanctions by western nations for Zimbabwe's economic woes.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions