GOVERNMENT says it is prepared to implement the free blood initiative which commences next month amidst indications that capable infrastructure and funding mechanisms have been put in place to complement the program.
By Michael Gwarisa in Gweru
The program which is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in collaboration with the National Blood Services of Zimbabwe (NBSZ) is set to benefit maternal cases and vulnerable societal groups with the aim of closing the high mortality rate as a result of loss of blood.
Officiating at the National Blood donor day celebrations in Gweru on behalf of the health minister Dr David Parirenyatwa, Minister of State for Midlands Province, Owen Ncube said there was no going back on the free blood drive and government was in the process of mobilising more funding for the initiative.
“Government has made significant strides in reducing the user fees of blood in 2018. The $4.2 million subsidy was injected into the NBSZ bringing the cost of blood to $50, this however is still costly for the majority of citizens who are living below the poverty datum line.
“Funding for pregnant mothers has been made possible through funding from partners UNICEF, UNFPA, RC among others. Through this funding, Zimbabwe has been able to reduce maternal deaths per year from 580 deaths per year in 2016 to 526 in 2017,” said Ncube.
He added that the leading causes of maternal death were bleeding, infection and blood pressure and through increased funding to blood programs, the country is set benefit immensely.
“On June 6, the MoHCC launched the first ever health financing strategy at Mrehwa hospital and when implemented, it will increase health sector domestic funding and improve access to quality health care for all
“It is against this backdrop, as part of the new national health financing policy strategy, government made a decision to inject further funding into the NBSZ to make blood free for all citizens in all public health institutions beginning July 1, 2018, this a commendable milestone and we assure you as government that we have identified funding for this project,” said Ncube.
NBSZ Chief Executive Officer, Ms Lucy Marowa however said there was need to mobilise more blood donations now that blood is now free and demand for the precious product is going to surge.
“The issue of blood costs has remained topical in the country, it has been a contentious issue for gvt and for us too as providers of this precious commodity called blood. As NBSZ, we made significant strides in bringing down the costs of blood from a high of $135 to $80 through our own costs cutting initiatives then the government stepped in and brought it even further to $50 for the public institutions and at private hospitals it’s still at $100.
“The coming in free of the blood iniatiave announced by the MoHCC is a positive development as it means there will be no lives lost as a result of loss of blood. However, there is also lots of work to be done in educating the communities of Zimbabwe come forward and donate blood. We therefore have to do a lot of outreach and have more adult donors, as we speak 70 to 80 of the blood is coming from school children, “said Ms Marowa.
NBSZ also provides to KIDZCAN local childhood cancer organisation blood at a subsidised rate of 50 percent.
Meanwhile, World Health Organisation officer in-charge, Dr Juliet Nabyonga said Zimbabwe was on the right track to attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through the free blood initiative.
“As the WHO, we welcome this move because of the central role blood plays in service delivery especially to save mothers and children. And looking at Zimbabwe where mortality is still high, majority of these deaths right now we have 651 per 100 000. Majority of these deaths occur around child birth and death due to bleeding a major occurrence.
“Availing blood free is a very good step that the government of Zimbabwe has taken and will go a long way in reducing these deaths,” said Dr Nabyonga.
She added that Zimbabwe had capacity to handle the free blood drive even though they could be funding challenges.
“Challenges will be there but we should work through. This model has worked in several countries and Zimbabwe is better prepared because they just launched the health financing policy which will mobilise resources towards this initiative.
“The health fund and the blood subsidy are already working wonders so we need to support this and we need to raise more and more money since there is going to be high demand owing to the pronouncement of free blood.”