Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
ZIMBABWEANS are a resilient lot as witnessed by the fact that the country continues to record milestones in the health sector despite illegal and crippling sanctions that were imposed on the country in 2002.
These are the words by former Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa who served Government in that office for 14 years.
The country has been under sanctions since the turn of the millennium after it embarked on the Land Reform Programme, prompting former colonial master, Britain, to impose sanctions in protest.
Britain also lobbied for the same hardline stance by its allies.
According to a forensic audit by Professor Alena Douhan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the effects of the unilateral sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West, the results have been devastating.
Due to sanctions, foreign companies and banks are unwilling to do business with the public sector in Zimbabwe, preventing the Government from getting revenue for the exercise of its public functions and provision of essential services.
This in turn has resulted in the violation of labour and social rights of people involved in the public sector, whose salaries are reported to be much lower than in the private sphere.
Unilateral sanctions have also prevented Government from using resources to develop and maintain essential infrastructure, disaster response and social support programmes.
However, despite all these setbacks, Zimbabwe which at one point had the fifth highest HIV prevalence in the world has managed to reduce AIDS related deaths from 3 000 in a week to about 20 000 annually.
Although HIV deaths remain relatively high, the country has also managed to reduce the number of new HIV infections which has seen prevalence rate dropping from over 20 percent to 11,9 percent.
TB and malaria deaths have also gone down and Government has facilitated the construction of additional health facilities in both urban and rural areas to lessen challenges associated with access to health care services.
Chief among milestones that the country recorded in the health sector is that the Government was swift in injecting US$100 million towards the containment of the deadly coronavirus.
The containment of Covid-19 and the vaccination programme has been hailed by the World Health Organisation and other key global organisations.
In an interview, Dr Parirenyatwa said Zimbabweans are resilient and will continue forging ahead despite the sanctions which have crippled Government from fully carrying out its mandate.
“It is quite easy to focus on everything that has gone wrong since the past 20 or so years but under sanctions, we have managed to remain resilient in ensuring that the health sector does not collapse. We have been determined to provide quality healthcare services as evidenced by the purchase of state of the art equipment in our hospitals for starters and these are capital intensive,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
“Yes, most of our drugs are dependent on donors as we continue to fight against the illegal sanctions but with our measly resources we have worked flat out to equip our health facilities. In 2002 when I became Minister, we lost a number of investors and partners including Italians who were essential in constructing clinics and hospitals due to sanctions.
“We however rose from that because to date as a country we have managed to construct more than 47 clinics and hospitals.”
He said Zimbabwe was recently removed from the top 20 countries with high TB burden in the world due to commitment by the Government to ensure the deadly disease is contained.
According to him, Zimbabwe had managed to implement the prevention of mother to child transmission as means of reducing new HIV cases. `
“Of all our milestones, the Government’s response to Covid-19 was exceptional and although we received some funding from donors, most resources were publicly financed. Government gladly injected US$100 million and I am proud to say we managed to contain the spread of the global pandemic. We lost about 6 000 people to the disease which is unfortunate but our response, vaccine procurement, prevention measures remain one of the best compared to other African countries despite the fact that we are under sanctions,” added Dr Parirenyatwa.
Community Working Group on Health director Mr Itai Rusike said if sanctions are lifted, Zimbabwe can bounce back to the effective health system it once had.
“Huge economic challenges have overburdened the health system which is struggling to meet all the needs due to increase disease burden. Of note however, is the fact that public funds were used in the containment of Covid-19 and procurement of vaccines, that is commendable,” said Mr Rusike.
“The once well performing and envied health system is visibly failing to serve the needs of citizens, as evidenced by closure of clinics and significant reduction in services offered at hospitals across all levels. The country should invest more on health through allocating enough budget to build Primary Health Care from community level going up in order to achieve the 2030 goal of ensuring universal access to all.”
Ministry of Health and Child Care spokesperson Mr Donald Mujiri did not respond to questions sent to him on Monday. — @thamamoe
Article Source: The Chronicle