More than a decade after African governments pledged in the Abuja Declaration to allocate at least 15 % of their annual budgets to healthcare, Zimbabwe is consistently failing to meet this goal.
By Phyllis Mbanje
Stakeholders are outraged that only 9,7% of the 2016 national budget was allocated to health, which has now been relegated to fifth position after other sectors like education and defence.
For years, inadequate funding for health care has meant that the country has been unable to realise its full potential for providing sufficient and quality services to its people.
“There is need for more funding in the health sector, which has been struggling to stay afloat,” said former deputy Health minister Paul Chimedza.
The country has struggled with a huge burden of diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, HIV and Aids and other non-communicable diseases.
During a post-budget review meeting organised by the Community Working on Health (CWGH) in collaboration with Parliament, stakeholders were unhappy about the allocation which they described as too little considering the frail state of the health delivery system in the country.
CWGH director, Itai Rusike said the allocation would not address the existing gaps in the health sector.
Over the years the small gains that were made in the sector have been eroded by a host of factors, which include inadequate funding, which has resulted in many people not being able to access basic health care.
Zimbabwe’s health sector has suffered dramatic decline because of under-investment over the last decade as the country battled a serious economic crisis, made worse by the withdrawal of key donor support.
The worst affected by the crisis are people in rural areas, particularly women and children, who struggle to access life-saving maternal and child health care.
In 2014, the allocation to the Health and Child Care ministry was $337 million, but the allocation dropped to $301 million in 2015.
Although for 2016 it increased slightly to $331 million, stakeholders felt the difference was insignificant to bring the expected relief.
“We failed to meet the Millenium Development Goals on health and we are now faced with a similar situation,” said Rusike.
“Health is not being prioritised. It came fifth after education, defence and others and yet everyone knows that the area is in serious trouble,” said CWGH board member Shepherd Shamu.
Currently, provision of 98% of medicines is being funded by development partners, a situation which stakeholders have described as precarious.
“We need to take off our political jackets and get to work because if donors pull out, there will be a crisis,” said MDC legislator for Glen View North, Fani Munengami.
Parliamentary portfolio committee on health chairperson, Ruth Labode said while it was a sad story that health was still receiving a small allocation, the government had no choice since treasury coffers were dry.
“We eat what we make and so it becomes difficult to even project what we will have,” she said.
The legislator, however, said it was crucial to ensure that whatever was allocated was disbursed.
Last year only a fraction of what had been allocated was actually disbursed
2016 national budget highlights
- Budget revised downwards from 2015’s $4,1 billion to $4 billion.
- Health allocated $330 million
- Education gets biggest share at $810 million, Home Affairs ($396 million) and Defence ($357 million)
- Recurrent expenditure at $3 919 billion.