GOVERNMENT spending towards health this year averaged a measly $21 per person, a figure that is lower than $24 per person in 2016, the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) has said.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
In its contribution to the 2018 National Budget consultations, CWGH said the per capita allocation towards health is one of the lowest in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region whose average spending on health per person is $146.
“The per capita allocation stands at $21 down from $24 in 2016 and this implies that the government will spend an average of $21 per person on healthcare in 2017,” CWGH executive director, Itai Rusike said.
“The per capita health allocation is lower than the Sadc average of $146 and per capita health allocation in South Africa is $650, Zambia $90, and Angola $200,” he said.
Rusike said the CWGH is also worried about the total budget allocation to health, which has remained lower than the prescribed 15% of the total budget by the Abuja Declaration and the Sadc target of at least 11,3% of the total budget.
“Countries such as Malawi, Rwanda, Madagascar, Togo and Zambia have managed to reach the Abuja Declaration target, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and as of 2015, Rwanda spent at least 23% of its budget on healthcare.”
The CWGH said Zimbabwe has however, made significant gains in the area of HIV prevalence, child and maternal mortality, which have significantly dropped.
Rusike, however, railed against the government’s over-dependence on external donor funding for the health sector at 24,9%, although the bulk of health financing is from employers who contribute 28,4% and government at 21,4%.
“The high dependency on external financing is unreliable, unpredictable, unsustainable and highly dependent on the political environment; raising concerns on the sustainability of health financing institutions and the vulnerability of government’s budget should external funds be withdrawn.”
Other problems noted in the health sector include poor infrastructure and ill-equipped hospitals, as well as a worrying ratio of patients to health personnel which stood at 12,7 health workers to 10 000 patients in 2011 (WHO statistics).
The country is also said to be relying heavily on imports for drugs, equipment and other hospital consumables, while some health institutions have inadequate equipment to carry out diagnosis.
The CWGH said the government must broaden the tax base in order to fund health, by for example introducing tobacco tax, or raising taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages to fight non-communicable diseases and even introduce a wealth tax.