What happened to health for all?

HARARE - If there is anything African politicians and policy-makers stand accused of — nothing ranks high as chanting empty slogans and deceptive proclamations.

Most governments claim to derive their power from people and are ready to serve the people who have entrusted them with the exercise of power.

Governments have an obligation to ensure the well being of their citizens and guaranteeing that their rights are respected.

Citizens of any country should be able to access affordable and efficient health facilities as a basic human right.

This entails that the poorest of the poor in a country should have such access for them to be spared from succumbing to preventable illnesses that threaten their well being.

In the late 1990’s a lot of ambitious programmes were launched which included among others “Health for all by the year 2000”.

Ironically the turn of the century saw an even increasing number of vulnerable groups in society being further excluded from basic health care while the affluent in society have continued to enjoy better and improved health facilities, or better still get medical attention outside the country.

If you are in good health today you have the Lord to thank for such a state because if you contract a deadly disease that may require surgery services that are not available locally or if you cannot afford the local fees then you are a sure candidate to the permanent home — the grave.

The chances of being alive if you are poor in this country are almost next to nothing as health service providers continue to demand huge payments upfront for all chronic illnesses.

Health providers are in business and as such we cannot fault them but the government should ensure that health services are available to those who cannot afford to pay.

Some major health facilities in the country have often been described by disgruntled citizens as “the places of death” where if one is admitted then there are high chances of leaving that place through the mortuary.

With almost all the district and provincial hospitals having been reduced to mere shells, the once referral hospitals have deteriorated to such an extent they have closed most of their units leaving the health citizens to fate and destiny.

Most people are travelling from as far as Mwenezi to come to Harare to be treated for the Kaposi Sarcoma cancer which is conducted once a week every Thursday.

If one misses the day they are booked, they have to go back and try again next time notwithstanding that there will be no respite to the suffering.

Even if fortunate to make it on the day, they may still fail to get treatment because of the large numbers coming from all over the country.

Many will eventually give up and wait for whatever will befall them.

The continual decline of health services has clearly demonstrated that “health for all” was one of the various myths that citizens were bombarded with.

While the City of kings — Bulawayo has continued to suffer from de-industrialisation which has seen a lot of people losing their source of income, health facilities have also followed the same trend.

Recent media reports further dampens the already gloomy picture as the biggest referral hospital Mpilo has closed some of its facilities due to financial difficulties.

What is more alarming is the fact that such a big institution which should cater for all Matabeleland, Midlands and Masvingo provinces, is relying on donations from the community to fund its operations.

What will happen to people who want samples to be tested when laboratories are just used once a week, with some wards and theatres being closed?

It is clear that for the majority of the population with no health insurance cover, life has become a big gamble.

The government must prioritise the health of the nation and channel more funds into health services. - Wellington Gadzikwa

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