‘Poor funding threatens health sector’

Itai Rusike

ZIMBABWE’S low health financing regime is seriously threatening the health sector as personnel has to endure poor working conditions, while health institutions crumble due to lack of medicines and equipment, a health expert had said.

Speaking to NewsDay on the sidelines of a pre-dialogue meeting with parliamentarians and the media on health sector financing, Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Itai Rusike said the health sector had been facing deep structural challenges since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The health sector has suffered from years of gross under-funding and investments, with public health spending accounting for a relatively small proportion of total government spending.  Health sector allocations were 10,6% in 2022 down from 13% in 2021,” Rusike said.

"As at 2019, the main sources of health financing were external aid financing (29,55%), followed by voluntary health insurance contributions (27,27%), then out-of-pocket spending (24,38%), and lastly government transfers (17,65%). There is an over-reliance on external aid and out-of-pocket spending. Out-of-pocket payments by households have driven many households deeper into poverty," he said.

Rusike said the external financing was inadequate, unreliable, unpredictable, unsecured and highly dependent on the political environment, which raises concerns on the sustainability of health financing and exposes the vulnerability of government's health budget should external funding be withdrawn.

"In fact, donor funding is limited to their area of interest, subject to change, and not what the country or community needs and, therefore, falls far short of what is required for primary healthcare for universal health coverage," he said.

Public health expenditure from 2016 to 2022 has been ranging from 6,9% to 13% of the national budget, which experts say is inadequate to cater for the health sector’s  highly demanding needs.

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