‘Health sector too reliant on donors’

European Union (EU) head of delegation to Zimbabwe, Philippe Van Damme says the recovery of the health sector remains fragile as long as there was still over dependence on donor funding which accounted for 95% of all medicines in rural clinics and district hospitals.

By Phyllis Mbanje

The EU head said donors were playing too large a part and there was need for the government to do more in the health sector.
“We are funding most of the vital medicines available in rural clinics and district hospitals and are even contributing to the salaries of the health workers,” he said.

Van Damme said while the recovery of the sector was undeniably under way, as long the government remained donor dependent, the process would remain weak. He said over the coming years, when external funding starts to decrease, the challenge would be to preserve and further consolidate the gains achieved.

“We have kick started a process to turn around the health services, but it cannot be our objective to maintain such a high contribution to the national system,” van Damme said.

He was speaking during the signing ceremony for the EU contribution of €12 million to the Health Transition Fund (HTF) on Wednesday this week.

The fund is in support of the maternal, neonatal and child health programmes in the country.

To date, the EU has contributed €42,3 million to the health sector through the fund which is managed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

A further €76 million has been allocated to the health sector until 2020 under the predecessor of the HTF (which comes to an end in December) the Health Development Fund.

“There’s an urgent need for the government of Zimbabwe to allocate more than the current 8% of the National Budget to the health sector,” Van Damme said.

Health minister David Parirenyatwa said he had approached the Ministry of Finance countless times to try to increase the health budget allocation.

“The finance minister always listens to my concerns and understands, but he says there is not enough fiscal space at the moment,” he said.

Unicef country representative Reza Hossaini said the HTF has contributed to a reduction in maternal deaths from 3 800 a year in 2010 to 2500 in 2014.

“Prior to the fund the country’s health sector was haemorrhaging, doctors and nurses were leaving the country in their hundreds and the few that remained were overworked and morale was very low,” Hossaini said.

“The HTF has changed this picture. It has stopped the mass exodus of doctors and mid-wife-nurses and improved availability of essential drugs.”

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