A Zimbabwe Hospital Charges Women $5 for Each Scream During Labor—Why?

"False alarms."

The Atlantic business channel always enjoys a good price mystery. But this factoid probably falls under the category of Really Awful Price Mystery. It's so awful that I sincerely hope it's just not true: At least one Zimbabwe hospital reportedly charges $5 for each time a woman screams while giving birth.

Via Max Fisher, that means each scream accounts for 3.3 percent of average income per capita:

Gross domestic product per capita is only $500 in Zimbabwe; average annual income per person is about $150. Zimbabwean hospitals also charge a $50 delivery fee. This means that, in a country where underemployment is 95 percent and poverty is rife, a mother who screams a few times during delivery might owe half her annual income after giving birth.

What is allegedly an effort to reduce "false alarms" is clearly a ploy for the hospital to run up charges on what might be the least price-sensitive consumer category on earth: a woman in labor. In the United Nations' ranking of countries by gender equality, Zimbabwe finishes 172nd out of 186.

Unfortunately, Zimbabwe's corruption runs far beyond the emergency room. Sixty-two percent of respondents told Transparency International that they had paid a bribe for one of eight common services. By comparison, the figure was 7 percent for the U.S. and 17 percent for Sudan. 

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Business

Just In