Treasury yet to release COVID-19 funds

Obadiah Moyo

GOVERNMENT’s incapacity to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus in the country was exposed in a case currently before the High Court where the Health ministry disclosed that Treasury has not yet released the US$200 million required to source personal protective equipment (PPE) and other key provisions for healthcare providers, forcing them to rely on donations from well-wishers.


The ministry made the exposé after being taken to court by the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), which sought a High Court order compelling the State to urgently provide adequate PPE for all health workers and security forces enforcing the lockdown order.

To date, Zimbabwe has recorded three deaths from 14 confirmed cases amid fears several cases might go unreported as government has no capacity to roll out rapid testing kits throughout the country, with all tests done in Harare.

In its submission to the High Court, the Health ministry said it submitted a budget of US$199 344 544 to fight coronavirus, but government last month pledged a paltry $20 million towards fighting COVID-19.

“We want to file documentary evidence before the court that we have not been sitting on our laurels from the date our first COVID-19 case was reported. We have been working around the clock to enable that we fulfil our constitutional mandate. We will not labour ourselves in filing a notice of opposition, but will explain
every document in court,” part of their submission read.

The Health ministry further stated that it submitted a budget of US$1 541 200 for co-ordination of the COVID-19 programme, US$61 994 029 (case management), US$2 446 921 (surveillance), US$53 373 260 (rapid response teams), US$1 350 748 (risk communication community engagement), US$11 815 742 (logistics), US$72 990 972 (infection prevention and control), US$6 717 754 (laboratory capacity) and US$467 870 for points of entry programmes to control importation of the disease.

“Still awaited government of Zimbabwe funding for training paper work which was submitted on April 1 and also funds for Chipinge and Chimanimani WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] health facilities,” the document read.

The Obadiah Moyo-led ministry further submitted that it requires 100 000 surgical medical waterproof masks, 30 000 visors with a surgical mask, 1 000 big plastic bins on wheels, 15 000 steel bins, 300 000 bin liners, 500 sets of mops and buckets on wheels, 51 000 gumboots different sizes, 500 000 surgical gloves and 50 000 heavy duty gloves.

The Health ministry also said it distributed hand-held thermometers to all provinces and had targeted to test over 30 000 people per month, but was yet to receive the US$1,5 million required for that exercise.

In its application, ZADHR submitted that its 1 500 members, including doctors and nurses manning public hospitals, were at high risk of contracting the highly contagious disease by sharing transport on Zupco buses with other civil service officials and bus crews.

The doctors also demanded that adequate measures be put in place, including closing the airspace, provision of ventilators, PPE to all hospitals in the country and to establish more level three laboratories to test infectious diseases such as COVID-19 in all provinces.

Treasury allocated the Health ministry $6,5 billion in the 2020 national budget, which analysts said was now a drop in the ocean given the country’s hyperinflationary environment.

Well-wishers, among them local corporates and international health funders, have come to the aid of the country’s creaking health sector, with the Global Fund pledging US$25 million, out of which US$5 million was released last week.

The European Union donated an US$41,5 million to the Health Development Fund, which is jointly managed by UNICEF and United Nations Population Fund, after an initial US$4 million donation to fight COVID-19.

Businessman Frank Buyanga, through his company African Medallion Group, donated US$5 million.

The Chinese embassy and Chinese business community spent US$500 000 on upgrading the Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital and sourced additional medical equipment.

The United Kingdom-based Department for International Development (DFID) donated protective equipment and clothing worth £100 000 to the hospital.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also chipped in with US$470 000, while Chinese philanthropist Jack Ma & Alibaba Foundation donated 20 000 test kits, 100 000 face masks and 10 000 protective suits and face shields, which are, however, currently unusable because of missing parts.

Other donors include Green Fuel, Fossil Zimbabwe, Bitumen World and Old Mutual which provided hand sanitisers, knapsack sprayers, fuel and insurance cover for healthcare providers, respectively, while fuel mogul Kudakwashe Tagwirei’s firm Sakunda Holdings is upgrading Rock Foundation Medical Centre to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet Wireless and Higher Life Foundation also donated 45 ventilators, PPE and transport for doctors and nurses, life and health insurance, educational scholarships for their children.

At Ekusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo, the business community and non-governmental organisations, among others, have launched a crowd-funding initiative to equip the centre so that it caters for COVID-19 patients from the southern parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the world, with 112 238 deaths from 1812 272 infections and 415,205 recoveries recorded by end of day.