'Tumbling GDP escalates deaths'

HARARE - Rising poverty has triggered an increase in deaths in Zimbabwe, according to Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit (Zeparu).

Zeparu’s research papers are the first documented evidence on the impact of the economy on health, compiling facts over almost three decades.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer Albert Makochekanwa, in a paper titled The Impact of Economic Performance on Health in Zimbabwe affixed on infant, child and adult mortality since 1980, said poverty has triggered an increase in deaths.

“You can truly or partly agree with the fact that people with low incomes die younger than those with high incomes,” Gibson Chigumira, the Zeparu executive director said while presenting the paper in Harare.

“When GDP was on a gradual increase from 1980 to 1990, child mortality rate (CMR) was on a gradual decrease trend. Conversely, when GDP started declining from 1997 until 2008, CMR started increasing for most of the years during the same period.”

Makochekanwa argues that people’s vulnerability and access to health are both affected by economic factors, sparing the well-placed classes while the masses perish.

“The decline in GDP means that people’s financial ability to meet the health and nutritional needs of their children were also reduced,” he said. “Female mortality rates show a decline from 321 in 1980 to 270 in 1990, then nearly tripling in 2002 when it reached 681 before peaking in 2007 when it was 689.”

Chigumira in a second paper titled Economic Performance and its Implications on Health Financing in Zimbabwe shows the relationship between health service provision and economic growth.

He argues that sub-standard health services being proffered in the country are a result of weakened company balance sheets, which have in-turn starved the sector of funds.

Government has for years been failing to meet the Abuja Declaration which requires that 15 percent of every annual national budget be spent on health.

Chigumira said the health situation in the country was worsened by administrative inefficiencies in both state and private institutions.

Training and Research Support Centre official Shepherd Shamu said as a remedy, government should begin treating the sector as a productive rather than a consumptive sector.

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