IT’S been three months since Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Obadiah Moyo dismissed the whole National Aids Council (NAC) board over its failure to turn around fortunes of the organisation.
By Michael Gwarisa
Not only is NAC running without a board but the organisation has no substantive Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in place. Currently, Mr Raymond Yekeye the Operations Director has been CEO on an acting capacity for the past six months now.
As a news publication, we have made countless efforts to contact the Minster regarding the NAC board and leadership issue. Unfortunately, we seem to be hitting a brick wall and there seems to be no answer regarding time-frames and when a new board would be installed, bringing us to the conclusion that NAC is indeed on Autopilot.
Autopilot is an aviation term which is used to describe a scenario whereby an airplane flies without the human pilots controlling “hands on. As fancy as the Autopilot system can be, it has potential to malfunction or disengage itself in the presence of a turbulence and when this happens mid-air, the human pilot takes over control of the aircraft and normalcy is restored.
However, the Autopilot scenario at NAC is a different one and should a turbulence occur like the one being experienced right now where ARV drugs are in short supply and foreign currency shortages are biting, the plane is likely to crash without hesitation. In 2013, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport in what was cited as an autopilot issue. The pilots assumed the autopilot was doing something it actually wasn’t doing, on the safe but highly automated Boeing 777.
For an organisation like NAC, an autopilot scenario is not ideal and throws lives of not less than one million Zimbabweans living with HIV in a state of quandary as there is no one to push for their cause.
Zimbabwe is currently reeling under massive shortages of Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for people living with HIV and the situation could trigger massive defaults and drug interruptions among Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) clients in the not so distant future.
Some parts of the country which include Mashonaland West have run out of second line and pediatric ART drugs. NAC is sitting on a pile of local currencies which they are failing to use to procure lifesaving drugs from source markets hence the prevailing ART drugs shortages. Had a board been in place, by now, NAC could have come up with a plan to access foreign currency as well as convert their local RTGS monies into hard currency.
The challenges bedevilling NAC are deep seated and needs people who have capacity to negotiate and come up with new strategies to ensure lives of people living with HIV are not jeopardized. With a board of directors in place, NAC will focus on its core non-profit making organisation’s mandate of coordinating multi-sectoral response to HIV.
The previous NAC board was fired on grounds of corruption. Failure to quickly put in place a board to run the affairs of NAC could open up room for more corruption, double-dipping and accountability issues since there won’t be anyone to monitor the happenings at the parastatal.
It is our hope and prayers that the Minister of Health puts the appointment of NAC board at the top of the agenda. Lives are at stake and the ball in is his court.