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Zim makes strides in healthcare; analysts call for continued investment

Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

PUBLIC health experts have welcomed the positive results outlined in the National Health Strategy 2021-2024 Performance Report which was presented in Cabinet on Tuesday.

The report presented by the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Dr Jenfan Muswere highlighted improvements in life expectancy, access to medicine and strides in the fight against HIV, TB and malaria.

“The country met the recommended 2010 World Health Report Threshold Public Health Expenditure per capita in 2021. Public Health Expenditure Per Capita has been increasing since the start of implementation of the National Health Strategy. There was a general increase in the availability of medicines in health facilities, from 51 percent in 2020 to 54.1 percent in 2021.

“In the second quarter of 2022, almost 96 percent of public health facilities had at least 80% of essential medicines in stock. Anti-malarials, ARVs, and anti-TB medicine stocks remained adequate during the period. Zimbabwe has made progress in responding to the HIV pandemic over the years. In 2021, the proportion of people living with HIV who were put on antiretroviral therapy (ART) was 98 percent,” said Dr Muswere.

Principal of the Harare Institute of Public Health, Dr Amos Marume commended the government’s efforts, particularly in tackling HIV, TB and malaria.

“I would like to commend the government in terms of that significant progress, particularly in the line of HIV. It’s evident that the mortality situation has improved and TB and malaria. In terms of infrastructure, we have seen quite a lot of infrastructure development nationwide and I would want to highlight improvements in terms of per capita expenditure towards health. We encourage the government to continue in that trajectory because we would want to have more independence in terms of how you finance your health. Maybe we can have repackaging of our levies, for example where you say maybe AIDS levy, sugar levy, where you can put it under one umbrella in health care financing.

“We need more independence as a country just to reduce our dependence on developmental partners because with all these things happening globally, I think the pressure and competition for resources is becoming more intense. So we want to have a framework where we can contribute significantly as a country to our public health, so we already have things that do work. Like the AIDS levy but maybe we can repackage it to say just really dedicate it for HIV but maybe to make it a public health fund. Given improvements done in that area you would also want those improvements across the board.”

Executive Director of the Community Working Group on Health, Mr Itai Rusike also noted the progress in HIV, TB, and malaria control, emphasising the importance of sustaining these gains.

“It is very encouraging to see the successes that the country has achieved. It is important to make sure that the gains are sustained. We are happy that the government has proposed the introduction of national health insurance and I think this will be a vehicle for us to move towards the achievement of universal health coverage. We need to move away from the over-reliance on external donors hence it is important that as a country we invest a lot in domestic health financing so that all those gains that have been highlighted in the National Health Strategy are sustained and protected.

“It is also equally important for us as a country to look at the areas where we are not doing so well so that we also up our game and make sure that those areas are prioritised both in terms of resource allocation and also making sure that those areas meet our national targets like the National Health Strategy and also some of the global targets that Zimbabwe has committed to,” he said.

Among other things, the report highlights impressive progress in tackling infectious diseases, with HIV treatment coverage having reached a remarkable 98 percent, with a corresponding decline in AIDS mortality rates.

Zimbabwe’s success in managing TB and malaria has also been recognised, with the World Health Organization removing the country from the high-burden list for TB and a 70 percent drop in malaria cases observed in the past three years.

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