Government says Zimbabwe is facing a serious shortage of medicine and drugs at public hospitals which has left patients at the mercy of private health facilities.

Health and Child Care minister Douglas Mombeshora revealed this while making submissions at the ongoing pre-budget seminar in Parliament last week.

He said the unavailability of medicine was depressing.

“Our ministry acknowledges that the country is facing a serious shortage of medicine and drugs, which is culminating into a crisis, especially at the lower level and has left patients at the mercy of private hospitals,” Mombeshora said.

“We do not have enough drugs for even a month in our stores and allocations are not in line with the ministry requirements.

“For instance, we made a request for US$129 million for 2023, but Treasury responded by reducing the budget to US$52 million and you can see the gap.

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“We are really appealing to Treasury to at least honour our requirements.”

Mombeshora said the ministry required approximately US$17 million worth of medicine per month.

“Our ministry is actually dedicated to adequately enhance local manufacturers of drugs within the healthcare sector and we have taken significant steps such as reserving a range of products specifically for local suppliers to supply NatPharm,” he said.

“A number of medical equipment is obsolete and most have exceeded its lifespan and due to financial constraints, the process cannot be done once.”

In 1985, the World Health Organisation declared that the Zimbabwean healthcare system was among the best in the developing world.

However, most of the gains have been reversed by years of underfunding, poor working conditions and high levels of brain drain, with more than 4 000 healthcare workers, including doctors, leaving the country for greener pastures since 2021, according to Health Services Board chairperson Paulinus Sikhosana.