Lack of funds stalls health projects

HARARE - The Health ministry has failed to implement projects they had been earmarked to improve the health sector in Zimbabwe, owing to poor resource allocation by Treasury, an official said.

Speaking before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health, Health ministry permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji said money allocated to the ministry remains inadequate to fund the country’s health system.

“We had been allocated $7 million for central healthcare rehabilitation but $195 000 was released. It means we haven’t done anything much yet in terms of rehabilitation of our health infrastructure,” Gwinji said.

“We had been allocated $6, 2 million for the improvement of district health centres but only $548 000 was released. We had been allocated $1,1 million for the rehabilitation of rural health centres but only $400 000 was released.

“We had applied for $18 million under primary healthcare and $14 million was only released with $4 million outstanding.”

Gwinji’s revelations comes amid donor fatigue, with the health permanent secretary admitting that they were beginning to see a drop in the number of organisations willing to partner the ministry.

Out of a required $1,3 billion support for the health sector, former Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa only allocated the Health ministry a paltry $281 million.

This constituted just 6,8 percent of the total budget a far cry from the 15 percent Abuja declaration requirement.

Meanwhile, senators said the government must do more in terms of funding the health sector.

“Government should consider resourcing our pharmaceutical companies so that they will be able to produce affordable medication in order to curb certain diseases like malaria, TB and HIV.  Companies like CAPS and Datlabs, are government-owned companies, but even privately-owned companies should make drugs which are competitive.  This will help in making drugs affordable,” senator for the disabled Nyamayabo Mashavakure said.

“Health should be for all the people despite their ages.  If it were possible, I think referral hospitals like Parirenyatwa, Mpilo and UBH should be found in all the areas in this country so that people have big hospitals near where they stay and they do not have to come and crowd Harare, looking for medical attention for different conditions. 

“Hospitals like the one in Chitungwiza should be built in many places around the country so that people do not go around in search of referral hospitals.  We want good health for all people, including the infants and the elderly.”

Zanu PF Hurungwe senator Tapera Machingaifa also narrated horrific stories which he witnessed at Hurungwe District Hospital.

“When we talk about the budget, let us talk to the minister of Finance ... so that he puts more money on health issues. I remember, sometime I went making some research and investigation in my constituency in Hurungwe where I paid a visit to the Hurungwe hospital which is in the Magunje township. 

“It is quite a big hospital which is supposed to be helping people and it has a wide-catchment area. I observed that despite the size of the hospital, there was no ambulance.  My reason for visiting that place was to carry a corpse that was in the mortuary which was not refrigerated.

“When I got in there, I saw that there were some goat droppings in the hospital and you start wondering as to how goats may come into that place.  The mortuary was located some distance from the main hospital and the grass around the place was not is quite a pity...”

Bulawayo MDC senator Siphiwe Ncube said government cannot even pay medical bills for legislators.

“All of us here, one way or the other have something that needs medical attention, but when we go to the hospitals we are not able to pay for the bills.  There is a time I got injured and there was a demand for $400 that I was supposed to pay, but I failed to pay that bill.”

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