Need for more energy, pragmatic approach to the country’s health challenges: CWGH

The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) yesterday joined the rest of the world in commemorating the World Health Day (WHD) under the theme Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere, calling on the government to ensure that all citizens get quality health services, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardships.

CWGH said health is central to protecting dignity, sovereignty and progress. At a time when people’s health is negatively affected by rising costs of basic goods, services and unemployment, provision of accessible, affordable quality health services and public health programmes is very important to promote health, prevent ill health and treat illness.

“We acknowledge that health is a human right and that Universal Health Coverage is essential to health for all and to human security. We adhere to the principle of Leaving No One Behind, which requires special effort to design and deliver health services informed by the voices and needs of people. This prioritises the most vulnerable members of the country’ population — children and women — those affected by emergencies, marginalised and stigmatised,” said Itai Rusike, the CWGH Executive Director.

Equity in health has been one of the major policy goals of the health sector in Zimbabwe since it requires that different groups get different levels of health care based on their different needs, not on the basis of their ability to pay for the costs of meeting those needs.

Admittedly, Zimbabwe made tremendous health improvements in the first decade after the country’s independence. There were enough nurses and doctors, affordable drugs and equipment were readily available, while new health facilities were built reducing the distance people walked to the nearest clinic. Unfortunately, most of those gains of the early years of Independence have now been eroded.

CWGH is encouraging a strong dialogue between the Ministries of Health and Ministry of Finance to mobilise and manage domestic resources to increase public funding and reduce out-of-pocket payments. It said it is also critical for Zimbabwe to mobilise citizen and community platforms, strengthening their budgetary processes, tracking expenditures to achieve value and equity of health spending, and enhancing the efficiency of health expenditures.

Rusike said as Zimbabweans commemorated this day, people should bear in mind that the country is facing a myriad of problems that need urgent political intervention.

“It is now an annual ritual for doctors, nurses and other health staff to go on strike demanding better remunerations and the tools of trade to save patients. Most hospitals have no enough medicines, equipment and even sundries to assist patients. The country’s emergency services have been grounded due to poor funding from central government. Many ambulances do not have basic equipment or adequately trained staff to take care of patients during transit, also complicating their recovery or risking fatalities in transit.”

He said the current severe shortage of male condoms in most health facilities in the country may have negative implications on the country’s populace. Male condoms, preferred over the female condom, are key in reducing the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.

“CWGH feels that the situation should not have been allowed to deteriorate to this level as this threatens to erode the gains achieved over the years in reducing STIs and HIV infections.

“We are concerned by the increase in direct out-of-pocket payments as this is grossly affecting access to affordable essential health services and drugs due to high co- payments and user fees. Zimbabwe needs to mobilise and allocate a greater percentage of public domestic resources to health. Specifically, we call on our government to give priority to primary health care linked to essential health services packages.”