Columnist/OpinionLatest

Zim health sector sinking

The deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe
continues to worsen health outcomes for citizens.
While the immediate focus of many may be on runaway inflation, soaring prices and the widening exchange rate gap between the United States dollar and
the Zimbabwean dollar, citizens are struggling to access limited health services.
The most vulnerable of our society who include
women, children, the elderly and persons with disability (PWD) are affected more and this demands deliberate government action to redress their plight.
The healthcare system is characterised by grave inequalities that have also been intensified by the Covid 19 pandemic which caused a significant loss on the
gains of the past few decades.
First and foremost, government is not allocating
enough resources to the health sector in Zimbabwe.
While global and regional standards such as the
Abuja Declaration demand that governments set
aside 15% of their national budgets to health expenditure, in the 2023 allocation, Zimbabwe allocated only
11%.
While this is an improvement from previous years,
this 4% variance leaves a significant gap.
Health remains a key indicator in achieving the Vision 2030 of becoming an upper middle-income economy.
If government is to draw closer to this vision, they
must spend adequately towards a healthy population.
Zimbabwe has been facing a protracted economic
crisis over the last few years and the denialism of the
government and continued statement that all is well
has led to worsening service delivery.
This coupled with inconsistent economic policies
is exposing the cavity in the health sector which particularly affects marginalised groups especially in rural areas.
Persons with disabilities (PWD) have been severely
affected as they have been struggling to get medical
treatment and to access user friendly public transport
from rural areas.
This is also a reflection of the wider scope of marginalisation that they have been exposed to in light
of efforts engaging the government to consider them
when procuring buses but with no meaningful response.
These two are connected as many PWD’s have defaulted on their medical treatments due to delays or
absence of viable transport options.
The healthcare situation has also left behind pregnant women. Zimbabwe has a high maternal mortality rate of 458 children dying per 100 000 live births.
This is a discouraging number in 2023 especially for
a country that has committed to provide to provide
free maternal health services!
Robust social protection mechanisms should be put
in place to cater for the needs of vulnerable groups including pregnant women so that there is quick redress
of this indicator.
In rural areas, challenges are also centred around
provision of resources such as water and electricity at
clinics and hospitals that offer delivery services.
Health sector corruption is also a pressing issue requiring immediate attention as seen during the pandemic after the breaking of the US$60 million Drax
scandal which involved the highest office in the health
sector, the then Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo.
If corruption continues at that level, it is important
that we speak of the human cost of this corruption,
which includes the over 5 000 people that lost their life
to this pandemic.
Access to quality health care remains a preserve for
the rich.
While government insists that the local currency remains the medium of exchange, health care providers
are pegging their prices against the US dollar or even
selling products in the foreign currency.
As such, the fees will follow the exchange rate.
This, however, leaves the majority who earn in the
local currency unable to access health care.
This is a direct contradiction of pledge number two
under the president’s pledge of promises released in
2018: “Reducing user fees by 50%,” and construction of
78 new hospitals.
Concerning this promise we then ask, #HowFar?
Recommendations
On prioritisation of projects, healthcare should be
prioritized in the country as well as resuscitation and
maintenance of existing clinics and hospitals.
This should be reflected in the budget statements
by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube which should meet
the 15% target.
Devolution funds should be timeously disbursed to
cater for public service delivery needs in communities.
Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development

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