Airtime Health Levy to fund Free blood initiative

GOVERNMENT is set to tap into the airtime health levy to fund the free blood for all initiative starting next month, amidst indications that the levy is now generating more that $20 million every year.

By Michael Gwarisa

Briefing a media sensitisation workshop in Chinhoyi recently, Health and Child Care minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa assured Zimbabweans that the free blood for all move was going ahead as planned and mechanisms have already been put in place to finance the move.

“Starting July, we are saying everyone who blood needs should get it free of charge regardless of background and nature of diseases. Blood used to cost $100 then reduced to $80 then $50 but still we are seeing not everyone can afford the $50 so we are now saying free blood for all. Because of this levy, as from July 1, blood will be for free, absolutely free. It is a relief to the pregnant women and those injured in road accidents who need blood the most.

“The airtime health levy is doing very well, it managed to raise $22 million over the past period up from $8 million in 2017. So this and other funding mechanisms are going be in place to ensure sustainability of the free blood move,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.

The $22 million was raised through collecting five cents from the sale of airtime recharge cards.

Government has since last year been gradually reducing the cost of blood to ensure that it is within the reach of the ordinary person from $150 a pint in 2016 to the current $50 a pint, with the ultimate aim of making it totally free by next month.

However, there are fears across the sector that the free blood initiative will go down the “user fee policy” of pregnant mothers under 5s and those aged 65 years and above which remained in most areas a political pronouncement.

In 1980 free health care was introduced for those on low incomes (below $Z$150, then worth US$220).

Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) Executive Director, Itai Rusike recently warned government against making pronouncements without a tangible back up plan.

“Making a pronouncement without explaining the modalities is not enough. For the sake of transparency, accountability and good governance, it will be prudent that the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) come clean and explain the source of funding and the sustainability of this noble initiative.”

There is still however worry as to whether the airtime health levy would be sufficient considering that  government also has to take $16 million from the money to purchase drugs and other accessories mostly, at the national pharmaceutical company.

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