A healthy nation is a prosperous nation

For the Health and Child Care Ministry’s first 100 days of President Mnangagwa’s administration, there are many good stories to tell.

The ministry prioritised improved governance and administration of health services; scrapping of user fees; establishment of 10 village health posts; reduction in blood prices; and increased advocacy, detection, prevention and management of cancer, among other targets.

The price of blood at Government-run health institutions was set at US$50 a pint with effect from January 1, 2018.

Prior to that, the price had been reduced from US$135, then to US$100 and then US$80.

So far US$4,25 million has been availed through the Health Levy to subsidise the cost of blood, with the aim of bringing it to as low as US$10 a pint.

Another US$8 million has been earmarked to make blood free for women who need it after giving birth.

There is more good news.

Further, the supply of essential drugs in referral health institutions improved following purchases via US$18 million obtained from a tax on mobile phone air time; and Government set aside US$165 million for basic drugs and medical accessories.

For the first time in a long time, National Pharmaceuticals (Natpharm) is reported to be fully stocked. Construction of a state-of-the-art Natpharm warehouse has begun in Harare at a cost of US$23 million and it will have capacity to accommodate 22 000 pallets of medicines.

The current structure can only accommodate nine pallets of medicines. On cancer advocacy, detection, prevention and management, with special attention to cervical, breast and prostate cancers, at least 200 000 people were targeted for screening and management.

Government, UNFPA and National Aids Council put together US$850 000 to purchase necessary equipment for screening; and services were decentralised to district hospitals to make them accessible to people in rural areas. But there were some setbacks. Typhoid fever hit the country with 200 confirmed cases and over 3 000 suspected cases as of the first week of January 2018. Although no causalities were recorded, it is believed lack of access to clean drinking water and poor sanitation leave communities vulnerable to such disease. Also, doctors at public hospitals are at loggerheads with their employer over the Health Services Board’s alleged failure to honour pledges dating back to 2014. A red flag has been raised over a high failure rate among student nurses. One claim has been that the failure rate is high because the recruitment processes has been corrupted, with undeserving students getting training places.

Thankfully, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has stepped in to investigate. Last year, a belt-tightening freeze on recruitment of nurses was lifted, resulting in 2 000 people getting jobs. The Health Ministry has secured authority to employ a further 2 400 nurses.

Although the allocation of US$408 million in the 2018 National Budget was a 45 percent increase on the prior year’s US$281 million, it is still short of the target of 15 percent of the total budget set in 2001 by African Union members in the Abuja Declaration.

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