A LOCAL health lobby group, Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), has called on the incoming government to prioritise primary healthcare to achieve universal health coverage.
CWGH executive director, Itai Rusike, said Zimbabweans expected government to address the health sector’s multifaceted challenges.
“All political parties promised massive improvement in health infrastructure; more health personnel; accessible and affordable medicines; free medical care, improved health services in resettlement areas and pursuing the health for all policy, among others,” said Rusike.
“As CWGH, we summarize this as primary healthcare with clear intentions for the attainment of universal health coverage and, therefore, Sustainable Development Goals.”
He said the incoming government should “immediately shift focus to real developmental issues, particularly taking into account the dire need for improving health service provision for the benefit of ordinary Zimbabweans as articulated in the pre-elections (campaigns)”.
Rusike said the deplorable state of the country’s health system required urgent attention, starting with the primary healthcare system.
Zimbabwe needs sustained investments in primary healthcare to revitalize the health system to close gaps in access to services and to address the causes of ill-health, he said.
“Presently, infrastructure in hospitals is dilapidated, some is obsolete; medicines and supplies are in short supply; doctors, laboratorians, pharmacists, paramedics and nurses are inadequate and poorly motivated. This is against a background of sustained paltry funding to the sector from the fiscus which is of major concern.”
Rusike said the problems in the health sector were compounded by the prevalence of largely preventable diseases, behavior, lifestyles, environmental and basic water and sanitation issues.
“In recent years, many countries have adopted universal healthcare as a national priority and have committed to directing government funding towards that goal,” he said.
CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) across Africa have said community participation is key in budget advocacy processes as a reminder to governments on the continent as they make budgetary plans for the coming year.
During the just-ended African Regional Advocacy Summit for NGOs and Media in Nigeria, CSOs said the community remained an important stakeholder in influencing budgetary outcomes.
Zimbabwean team leader Nonjabulo Mahlangu said communities provided valuable local knowledge and first-hand experiences that can contribute to the budget process.
“Communities can give a human face to the issues that they face, and share their experiences as far as access to health is concerned. They can share stories on the availability, affordability, appropriability and accessibility of the services,” Mahlangu said.
“This will assist in identifying gaps that need to be closed. There are various platforms where communities can participate, both at community and national levels. CSOs can raise awareness on existing spaces where communities can participate or create platforms for participation, bringing leaders to the communities.”
Project officer for the Africa Health Budget Network Health Security project, Health Alert Sierra Leone, David Joseph Allieu said community engagement in the budget process started from the community itself.
“We have the responsibility to add our voice to the budget process. It helps identify and prioritise needs as aligned to specific areas. Communities can provide feedback on services, programmes and infrastructure projects that can inform the allocation of resources in a way that reflects real needs,” Allieu said.
CSO stakeholders and media from eight countries which met at the summit also discussed the way forward in improving budgetary allocations to the health sector.
THE Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) has urged African countries to take the issue of health security seriously as the continent struggle to recover from the COVID-19 aftershocks.
African countries’ health delivery systems are currently on their knees, including in Zimbabwe where shortages of medicines and life-saving equipment are prevalent.
Officially opening the first African Regional Advocacy Summit for NGOs and Media in Nigeria on Tuesday, AHBN co-chairperson, Muhammad Usman said COVID-19 was a reminder of the need to invest in the health sector.
“We need to take the issue of health security in Africa seriously,” Usman said.
“Let us use opportunities and experiences from past events that have affected the health sector so that a positive attitude is embedded within us. We need to focus around what we need to do to ensure that we engender accountability in our health sectors. We need to take the COVID-19 experience to advance health security in Africa.”
Community Working Group on Health executive director, Itai Rusike said raising domestic public funds was essential for universal health coverage.
“Health is recognised as a fundamental right in the Zimbabwe Constitution,” Rusike said.
“This, therefore, implies that everyone should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship. Currently only about 7% of Zimbabweans have access to medical insurance and this number is insufficient to ensure decent public healthcare. No country can prosper without a healthy citizenry.
“The current health financing model also remains unsustainable as it heavily relies on external financing as well as out-of-pocket financing. 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.”
Non-governmental organisations and the media from eight targeted countries of Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya and Cameroon, with funding from Ford Foundation and COPASAH are attending the four-day summit.
THE Bible speaks of humans who lived the longest in the history of mankind, the oldest having died at the age of 969 years – Methuselah.
Those who lived the longest are all men. Although less is said about matriarchs, it’s quite clear that men lived longer back then.
Sadly, centuries later an average Zimbabwean male is expected to live for about 61, 2 years with statistics showing that men account for more deaths in the country compared to women. Women live significantly longer than men as they have a higher life expectancy of 68 years.
Life expectancy refers to the number of years a person can expect to live and it is based on an estimate of the average age that members of a particular population group will be when they die.
HEALTH experts have urged COVID-19 caution ahead of schools opening next week and the approaching winter.
Speaking to NewsDay on Tuesday, chief coordinator of the COVID-19 taskforce in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Agnes Mahomva said COVID-19 was the new normal.
“We really urge citizens to take precautions seriously so as to ensure the country does not get into a crisis again,” Mahomva said.
“As we approach winter there is need to be extra careful and to religiously follow all preventive measures.”
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara expressed hope that the situation this year would be similar to last year’s where there were not many casualties.
“However, there is always need for caution and continuous need for practising good hygiene as this not only protects us from COVID-19 but also protects us from other viral respiratory infections and other diarrhoeal conditions like typhoid and cholera,” he said.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said there was need to limit the further spread of COVID-19 in schools by having all eligible students vaccinated.
“The standard operating procedures related to the reopening of schools should be supported with adequate resources for the safe operation of schools in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic and cholera outbreak,” Rusike said.
“We hope that the government is taking all the essential practical measures for the protection, safety, health and well-being of children, staff and the wider school communities as the country is facing the double blow pandemic considering the rise of cholera cases amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”
During Tuesday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, government said cumulative COVID-19 cases as at April 29, 2023 stood at 264 683, with 258 914 recoveries and 5 686 deaths. There were 83 active cases, and no deaths were recorded during the week under review. There were 15 new hospital admissions, compared to the 14 recorded the previous week, with five being in intensive care.
HARARE City Council’s health services director Prosper Chonzi yesterday confirmed a cholera outbreak in the capital, and urged residents to help in keeping the disease under control.
“We now have 21 cases, seven confirmed cases and these are mainly coming from the western suburbs,” Chonzi said.
“Budiriro has four confirmed cases, Glen View 3 has two, and one from Mt Pleasant Heights. What this means is that we should take this outbreak seriously because it has the potential to spread like a veld fire. We need to be on high alert.”
This came as health experts warned that the cholera outbreak may end up developing into an uncontrollable epidemic if there is no decisive response to it.
The first cholera case was reported on February 12 this year in Chegutu, Mashonaland West province, but the waterborne disease has since spread to nine of the country’s 10 provinces.
While no case has been detected in Matabeleland North, neighbouring Matabeleland South is emerging as a hotspot.
Speaking to NewsDay yesterday, Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the continued presence of cholera is a cause for concern.
“The people of Zimbabwe should be worried by the continued presence of cholera in the country given that the health system has been weakened by the lack of sustainable domestic health financing, hyperinflation and outflow of health workers,” Rusike said.