The government of Zimbabwe has delayed the distribution of a 40-ton truckload of tampons and pads, donations intended to help relieve a crisis of vaginal infection in the poverty-stricken country. The Zimbabwean ministry of finance had promised the donations would be duty-free, but is now requiring taxation or time-consuming quality testing, reports the BBC.
Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has led to the closure of domestic factories that produced sanitary napkins and tampons. Imported sanitary products are unaffordable, forcing an estimated 5 million women to use newspapers, rags, or tree fiber as absorptive pads, often resulting in vaginal infection. Similar problems exist throughout Africa, with Kenyan girls often skipping school when menstruating because of the lack of sanitary products.
“These are donated goods, not a political issue. It’s outrageous to make gain out of international solidarity between women,” said Euan Wilmshurst of Action for Southern Africa, according to the BBC. The sanitary products were donated by both big businesses and individuals in South Africa and the UK in response to an appeal launched in October by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions’ (ZCTU) Advisory Council for Women. The ZCTU will pay the tax because women can’t wait while the sanitary products are quality-tested, and hopes to start distribution as soon as possible, reports the BBC.