Medical professionals left the country in droves in the past decade during the height of economic meltdown in search of greener pastures.
Speaking to journalists after receiving US$120 million from the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID), the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Henry Madzorera, said government had started training experienced nurses to initiate ART.
“We have already started training senior nurses to initiate ART,” he said, adding that the move would see the expansion of ART services in the country.
Physicians are currently the only health professionals allowed to initiate the programme in Zimbabwe. As a result of their severe shortage, expansion of ART services has been limited.
Patients in rural areas face challenges as they travel long distances to district hospitals to consult doctors.
The National Aids Council says about 400 000 adults and 39 000 children are receiving ART in Zimbabwe. The council, however, said the figure could rise to 600 000 because of the new WHO guidelines which require people to commence therapy at 350 CD4 threshold.The new guidelines came into effect in 2010.
Madzorera said DFID had supported health promotion, disease prevention, curative services and rehabilitation services in Zimbabwe for a long time.
DFID permanent secretary Mark Lowckock said Britain is committing 74 million pounds (about US$120 million) over the next four years to help improve the health of women and children in Zimbabwe.
“This package sums up what British assistance is all about: helping vulnerable people and ensuring that many more Zimbabweans have access to basic services such as healthcare, education, clean water and sanitation,” Lowckock said.
Madzorera said government would soon scrap user fees for expecting mothers which is blamed as the major reason for increased maternal mortality.
“The 74 million support will certainly see us on our way to eliminating user fees for pregnant women and under fives and to ensure universal access to skilled attendance at delivery, I want to heartily thank DFID for this,” said Madzorera.
Reducing maternal mortality rate is Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number five.