'Govt must boost health research funding'

HARARE - Government must commit more resources to health research if Zimbabwe’s wobbly health system is to assimilate traditional medicine into its health infrastructure and get the best of both worlds, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

This comes as the public health’s share of total government expenditures has been dwindling, with the 2016 National Budget allocating the Health ministry $330,79 million, representing 8,3 percent of the total budget.

A high share of that allocation, which is already below the 15 percent Abuja target and the Sub Saharan Africa average of 11,3 percent, is earmarked for wage-related costs.

Cuts in public health spending impact not just individual patients, but all residents, WHO noted.

WHO representative to Zimbabwe David Okello said adequate and sustainable funding for health research was crucial.

He was speaking during the 11th Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe (MRCZ) annual health research forum where a cross section of researchers deliberated on promoting health research in the country.

“Much of the research in low income countries has been funded by external donors and does not necessarily address local research priorities,” Okello said in a speech read on his behalf.

“ . . .We need to see where we are as Zimbabwe on this commitment. Do we have a dedicated budget line for health research within the ministry of Health’s budget?”

Health minister David Parirenyatwa admitted that more funding needed to be directed towards this sector but was quick to point out that government was making concerted efforts to ensure that traditional medicines, once frowned upon, are used in the country’s ailing health sector.

He also threw his weight behind traditional medicines that are thought to have therapeutic benefits and reduce the strain of HIV/Aids on patients by offering scientific research to determine the strength of such herbs.

“We need to sharpen our capacity to carry out complimentary and traditional medicine research in order to utilise our indigenous knowledge,” he said.

“We hear of so many stories through the media about some practitioners who claim to treat some diseases such as cancer, HIV, diabetes and others. As a country, we want to ensure that these claims are supported by data that is obtained through appropriate methods.”

Parirenyatwa further said the complementary and traditional research committee which sits on the MRCZ board council will play a key role in monitoring and reviewing research involving traditional medicines.

The committee is made up of traditional medical practitioners and scientists

“We as ministry look forward to working with this committee to ensure that future claims will be backed by evidence,” Parirenyatwa said.

“With credible data, as a ministry we can announce to the world our capabilities in curing diseases that are contributing to high levels of morbidity and mortality.”

Parirenyatwa said if properly researched and patented, traditional medicine could be an answer for Zimbabwe.

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