ZIMBABWE currently spends less than ZW$41 per person’s health which is far much less than what other regional countries are spending on their citizens.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Translated to the interbank market rate of about ZW$16 for a USD1, this amounts to about USD2, 60 for a single Zimbabwean’s healthcare needs. In an interview with Health economist Dr Proper Chitambara said the amount spent for a single Zimbabwean’s health is grossly inadequate.
When you look at the per capita per person analysis of our health budget for 2019 we are at about ZW$41. So that’s the allocation. The actual expenditure may even be lower. But when we compare with other regions, where the average for Sadc is about USD150 per person spending on health,” he said.
He added that South Africa may even be higher between USD500 and USD600.
“Then Zambia, they are about USD200. Rwanda is one of the best performing public health spending because they are spending on average about 23 percent of their total budget, total expenditures on health.”
This, according to Dr Chitambara proves the government’s underprioritisation of healthcare.
“So we need to correct that. At least government has committed itself in terms of policies and institutions. We should go beyond that commitment to actual funding for the health sector because currently we are having to rely on external partners.
“And there is also a high proportion of out of pocket payments which is not sustainable. A lot of households have been reduced to a life of poverty because they have been forced to sell their assets to finance healthcare or education for their children. So government must bear the heaviest burden of health financing,” he said.
The Health Sector’s budget bid was restrained not more than ZW$2, 19 billion against the ZW$3 billion they require, as stated by Health Ministry’s finance director Mrs Heather Machamire’s representative Mrs Tennis Lynette.
“We also want the 15 percent of the national budget asstated by the Abuja Declaration,” she said.
Community Working Group on Health Executive Director Mr Itai Rusike finds the ceiling very depressing.
“It doesn’t give us hope in terms of addressing the health challenges that the country is facing right now. It is sad that the budget is being done in RTGS in a hyper-inflationary environment meaning that by the time it is implemented it would have eroded by inflation,” he said.
He added that the budget is ignorant on capacitating the doctors, nurses and village health workers complaining of incapacitation.
“If you look at the budget it doesn’t incentivize the doctors to be able to go back to work and to do what they are meant to do.
“So as civil society organisations we will definitely continue to push the government to make sure that at least their budget meets the regional and international commitments. As you are aware, the government is a signatory to the Abuja which talks about 15 percent, signatory to the WHO recommendations of allocating at least USD 86 per capita and also the 5percent of GDP,” Mr Rusike said.
Mr Rusike also said this budget takes the nation’s health sector financing five steps backwards.
“But this budget if you put it in real money terms, in US Dollar terms, it falls short of USD 100 million if we are to compare with the previous budget of almost about 560 million,” he said adding, “So we hope the budget will come up with a supplementary budget. And the supplementary budget has to happen as soon as the budget is announced because the current budget really, really falls short of meeting the health challenges the country is facing.”
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Budget chairperson Mr Felix Mhona said treasury needs to clarify how line ministries like the Health Ministry should come up with their projections to avoid being surprised when given shocking ceilings.
“The way we do our budget is problematic because ministries come up with their projections and at the end of the day, you are given a figure that even if you remember very well the figure they were advocating vis-à-vis the treasury ceiling they got.
“The disparity is so huge. So at the end of the day it calls for a position where the Finance Ministry has to concientise the line ministries so that when they do their budget bids they are well informed. Rather than a reverse process where they do their bids but are told the resources are inadequate,” he said