HEAVY reliance on donor support for the health sector will not take Zimbabwe’s healthcare anywhere, European Union (EU) ambassador to Zimbabwe, His Excellency Jobst von Kirchman has warned.
By Michael Gwarisa
He made this call during the launch of a US$90 Million Health Resilience Fund (HRF) that is meant to boost Zimbabwe’s primary healthcare capacity to complement government funding towards health. Ambassador Kirchman noted that while overall health sector funding has been increasing over the last years, a number of key health programs were still largely dependent on funding from development partners and this was not a healthy state of affairs.
In line with the of His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangwagwa that “nyika inovakwa nevene vayo” (A nation is built by its owners”, it’s important to increase public spending in the health sector for the attainment of Universal Health coverage that ensures that no one and no place is left behind.
“This implies in line with regional and global best practice that government must bear the greatest burden in terms of health financing. At global level, we have seen that no country has made significant progress towards universal health coverage (UHC) without relying on a dominant share of public funds to finance health,” said Ambassador Kirchman.
Zimbabwe is yet to meet the 15 percent Abuja target allocation towards healthcare where government is supposed to devote 15 percent of the total budget towards health. In the 2023 national budget, the government allotment on health and child care as a percentage of the total public expenditure increased from marginally 10.6% in 2022 to 11.2% in 2023.
“We know the government is working to reduce donor dependency and improve sustainability and we, along with other development partners, will support government in developing an exit strategy and ensuring that quality service delivery is sustainable in the long run.
“In this context, we welcome the fact that government spending on health and child care as a percentage of total public expenditure is projected to increase from 10.6 percent in 2022 to 11.2 percent in 2023. This means that Zimbabwe may be in a position to double the per capita health spending from US$20 in 2022 to US$40 in 2023.”
Meanwhile, the newly launched Health Resilience Fund was preceded by the Health Development Fund (HDF) which was supported by the European Union, Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance. It contributed to improving several health indicators where improvements were noted on maternal mortality, infant and under, adolescent fertility, contraceptive prevalence and chronic malnutrition.
United Kingdom Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Melanie Robinson said, “…the HDF pooled fund also saw the incidence of cervical cancer in Zimbabwe go down from 40 per every 100,000 women to 36 per every 100,000 women. I am proud to announce that with the support of the Health Development Fund, deaths and severe illness from malnutrition in Zimbabwe decreased by 4.5% in the first two years. Investing in health systems saves lives.”
She added that over 1000 solar-powered refrigerators have been distributed to clinics across Zimbabwe through the Health Development Fund, ensuring safe storage of vaccines and timely immunisations for children.
The Health Resilience Fund is set to build on he gains of the HDF and address the remaining challenges to ensure access to maternal, child and sexual and reproductive health, nutrition services, and to strengthen the health system’s resilience to shocks.