Health levy boosts drug supplies

HARARE - Zimbabwe is receiving a significant boost to its drug supplies, allowing it to expand its health care interventions after collecting $18 million from an airtime tax introduced earlier this year.

Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa said what remained was to improve drug distribution efficiency to hospitals and clinics, as drugs stocks have improved at the State-run National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm).

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa introduced in his 2017 National Budget the tax on airtime and mobile data, under the ‘‘Talk-Surf and Save a Life’’ initiative.

The Treasury chief argued it had become unsustainable for both the taxpayer and government to rely on a shrinking formal tax base and it was “therefore, critical that all economically active individuals contribute towards funding health services.”

Government began deducting a five percent health levy on all airtime purchases this March.

“We are hoping in the next few weeks that the drug stock levels in our hospitals and the district hospitals, provincial hospitals will be high because this process has now started.

“We want to make sure drugs are available in our institutions and this is the beginning of it. Like I said, we should be able to see more stocks coming into the warehouse and more stocks going to our institutions,” Parirenyatwa said after touring the NatPharm warehouse in Harare on Wednesday

“As you can see now we have the health levy fund that we get from your cell phones each time you make a phone call. We are getting five cents from every dollar and that is the money that has accumulated to the tune of $18 million since this fund started, and that is the money now that we are using.

“Outside the drugs that are bought by donors, now we have this  levy fund, and we are pleased that at NatPharm stock levels are quite high now and we hope this continues and spills over to where the drugs should be used.

“We don’t want these drugs to stay here, this is just a warehouse, we want the drugs to go to the hospitals and to the clinics and I am pleased as you saw a big truck outside there, that is supposed to distribute these drugs.”

The country is heavily dependent on donors with over 90 percent of the drugs being funded by development partners since the health sector is poorly funded in Zimbabwe.

Parirenyatwa said even the anti-retroviral treatment that had been reported to be in shortage has now been heavily stocked.

“Shortage of ARVs, well, you can see a quarter to half of the warehouse is covered by ARVs, so we do have enough stocks.

“Now, the new drug, E400  is now here. We are happy that we have those stocks,” he said.