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Sanitary pads said beyond reach of Zimbabwean women

Written by: Staff
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HARARE, Apr 29 (Reuters) Zimbabwe's main labour federation says prohibitive prices for sanitary towels are forcing thousands of women in the country to use old newspapers or rags during menstruation.

As Zimbabwe's economy continues on a free-fall, sanitary towels have not been spared from soaring prices which have left most basic commodities beyond the reach of all but the well-to-do.

''Those in the rural areas are using soft fibre from tree barks as a substitution which may cause infection,'' Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President Lovemore Matombo said yesterday.

''As the economic crisis deepens, basic goods like sanitary products are becoming a luxury item only available to the rich.'' Matombo said the ZCTU had finally taken delivery of 19 tonnes of sanitary towels donated by well-wishers abroad.

The towels' entry had been blocked on what the labour union -- a fierce critic President Robert Mugabe's government -- said were political grounds.

Officials were not available for comment yesteray, but the government has previously said sanitary pads were affordable for most local women and that the union was using the issue to bolster its ally, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

But some Zimbabwean women have said salaries do not cover the cost of one of their most basic needs.

''I need about two packets of pads every month but I am not formally employed and at 300,000 Zimbabwean dollars a packet, the price has become a strain on my husband's salary,'' said Harare housewife Gertrude Mutiwekuziva.

Mutiwekuziva's husband earns about US 75 dollars a month as a general office worker, far below the 250 dollars which the Central Statistical Office says an average urban family of five requires to cover its bare necessities each month.

The MDC and other critics say Mugabe's government has mismanaged the economy since assuming power at independence in 1980, leaving Zimbabweans grappling with daily-price hikes of commodities against static salaries, as well as soaring house rentals and transport costs.

Mugabe denies the charge, and insists the economy has been sabotaged by domestic and foreign opponents of his forcible redistribution of white-owned commercial farms for blacks.

REUTERS SBB VC1012

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