2019 health budget, a drop in the ocean

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By Vivian Mugarisi
Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji says the health sector needs at least $1,387 billion in next year’s national budget in order for the country to meet its health demands.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care chaired by Emakhandeni-Entumbane MP Dingilizwe Tshuma to speak about the 2019 health budget, Dr Gwinji said government has however promised an allocation of $689 million which is barely half of what is needed.
“Our budget is now programme based and we have three major areas which is policy and administration, public health and primary health care and hospital care,” he said.
“With respect to policy and administration our request was nearly $26 million but the allocation as indicated by Treasury is about $23,2 million and this leave us with nearly $3million gap.
“On public health the request was $276 million but was allocated was $31million and that leaves us with a huge gap of $244 million,” said Dr Gwinji.
He said that the Ministry needed more funds to also deal with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which are now claiming more lives compared to HIV/AIDS but have remained overshadowed by infectious diseases in terms of programming and investment.
“The reason why there is such massive investment in public health is because we have taken into consideration the need not only to address communicable disease but also the huge burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension which are now becoming the major killers of our population.
He added, “The third area that of primary health and hospital care, our request was $1 billion and we got an allocation of $633 million leaving us with a gap of $376 million. You will note that this includes our move to shift responsibilities and empower primary health care levels but at the same time ensuring that there is adequate commodities for service provision at higher levels of care as it stands to be more expensive at those levels.”
He said Zimbabwe’s health sector continue to be over-reliant on external sources of financing who have contributed an average of 50 percent of total funding from 2014 to 2018.
“If government fails to fund the health sector, consequently, what will happen is that partners will say they are not interested in funding it and they will pull out, so we need to ensure that government meets the obligation of funding health in order to encourage partners to support us” Dr Gwinji said.
He said most of the budget has been channeled towards employment costs over the years leaving too little for programming.
Zimbabwe’s health budget has been failing to meet the 2001 Abuja Declaration target to allocate at least 15 percent of the total budget towards health. At least 6, 57 percent of the total budget was allocated towards health in 2015 while in 2016 there was a slight increase to 7, 46 percent which however declined to 6, 88 percent in 2017 and 5,84 percent in 2018
The country has also failed to meet the minimum World Health Organization (WHO) per capita expenditure on health which should be $86 per person per year.


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