Call for equitable health access

Credit Venessa Gonye : Zimbabwe Independent

HEALTH experts have called for equitable health access for marginalised groups such as rural people, women and children.

This comes as the world yesterday commemorated the International Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day, which falls on December 12 annually.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said a country’s health system should work for everyone regardless of their financial status.

“Equitable health coverage puts women, children, adolescents, and the most vulnerable first because they face the most significant barriers to essential care. We all deserve a health system we know will be there for us throughout our lifespan. Trusted health systems provide high-quality services in primary care clinics and hospitals, equip and support frontline community health workers, and offer transparent health,” Rusike said.

He said Zimbabwe was affected by a decline in standards at the country’s major referral hospital, as well as the brain-drain in key personnel.



“UHC goes hand-in-hand with empowering communities to build healthy environments that promote holistic physical, mental and social well-being. Investing in #HealthForAll is the backbone of a prosperous society. Increasing public financing for health and reducing out-of-pocket health costs save lives, build resilience against pandemic threats, and advances Sustainable Development Goals beyond health.

World Health Organization (WHO) director AMR Global Co-ordination Haileyesus Getahun said challenges threatening a “healthy future for all” could not be addressed by the healthcare sector alone, but by a united and collaborative multi-sectoral response to ensure health security for everyone.

“The one health approach is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals, and ecosystems. It recognizes that the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and interdependent,” Getahun said.

In August this year, WHO expressed concern over Zimbabwe’s slow pace in improving UHC, which is part of an initiative to ensure everyone has access to proper health services.

2023 Health Budget insufficient

HEALTH experts yesterday said Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s $473,8 billion budget allocation towards the provision of health care services was grossly inadequate to fund the sector’s critical needs.

Ncube announced a $4,5 trillion budget on Thursday with 11% going towards health. Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the health sector remains grossly underfunded.

“The health budget remains grossly inadequate to fund the critical needs in the health sector,” Rusike said.

“The current health financing model remains unsustainable as it heavily relies on external financing as well as out-of-pocket spending.”

“In spite of the huge external support from development partners, there is still a huge financing gap in the health sector in the country which calls for greater innovation and commitment by the government to sustainably address it.”

Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe president Johannes Marisa said: “The health sector budget is an improvement from last year but of course when you are benchmarking with the Abuja Declaration you still realise that it falls short of the stipulated 15%.

“We hope the budget is going to address the mass brain drain that is underway in Zimbabwe where we are losing experienced and skilled workers to greener pastures.”

In April 2001, African Union countries met in Abuja and pledged to allocate at least 15% of their annual budgets to improve the health sector and urged donor countries to scale up support.

Years of underfunding of the country’s health sector was laid bare when COVID-19 hit the country as acute shortages of critical and lifesaving equipment such as ventilators and intensive care beds were exposed.


Some South African officials have accused Zimbabweans of straining that country’s health sector.

In his 2023 national budget, Ncube the allocation to health was meant to improve health provision.

 “In 2023, the budget has set aside 11% of total expenditures towards the health sector notwithstanding financial constraints, Government is committed to the provision of quality health services, as evidenced by the ongoing construction and rehabilitation of health facilities,” Ncube said.

 “In 2023, the budget has set aside 11% of total expenditures towards the health sector and the objective is to eventually meet the Abuja Declaration of 15%. This is necessary to attain Vision 2030 of becoming an upper middle-income economy.”

“In 2023, the sector is projected to receive US$212,9 million from the development partners towards the same areas.”

Ncube admitted that the health sector has been hard hit by mass exodus of health professionals.

“Government is, however, addressing this challenge through continuous review of both monetary and non-monetary incentives in order to attract and retain medical personnel.”