By Bridget Mananavire
Zimbabwe’s collapsing public health sector, which has seen hospitals running out of drugs and potable water among other things, has once again been overlooked as a priority area by President Robert Mugabe’s misfiring government — which reduced its budget allocation despite the humungous and worsening problems it is facing.
At the same time, and most revealingly about the Zanu PF government’s misplaced priorities, the State maintained its high vote allocations to security ministries, all this at the expense of the key health, agriculture and other important social service ministries.
In his budget presentation on Thursday, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa reduced the vote for health from $330,7 million this year to a disappointing $282 million in 2017 — a figure that falls way short of meeting the big demands of the public health services sector.
The irony of the situation was that Health and Child Care minister, David Parirenyatwa, had hours before the budget presentation, told journalists that he was optimistic that his ministry would get the biggest fund allocation.
“I expect that the highest budget allowance allocation will come to health,” Parirenyatwa said during a tour of CAPS, the country’s largest but now virtually defunct pharmaceutical group.
The biggest chunk of the government’s money was instead allocated to the Primary and Secondary Education ministry, which got $803,7 million — translating to 19,6 percent of the total national budget.
The security ministries of Defence and Home Affairs got $340,5 million and $364,3 million respectively — dwarfing substantially what Health got.
Commenting on this unsatisfactory state of affairs, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC said yesterday that the huge budget allocations to other ministries at the expense of health and agriculture confirmed that the government had misplaced priorities.
“For Chinamasa to allocate a big chunk of his paltry budget to the Defence ministry just proves that the Zanu PF regime has got lop-sided priorities. Zimbabwe is not at war and neither are we under imminent threat of any invasion by hostile forces.
“He should have allocated the bulk of his budget money to ministries such as health, education and agriculture. Chinamasa’s budget is a far cry from what a developmental state requires. He totally missed the point by failing to understand macroeconomic dynamics and fundamentals in a collapsing economy such as Zimbabwe,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
Of the health budget, $14,6 million will go towards supporting hospitals and health centres; $17,9 million to the rehabilitation and refurbishment of hospitals; $10 million towards the procurement of medical equipment; $6,9 million to the provision of maternal and child health care; while $3,2 million will go towards preventive health programmes.
Analysts who spoke the Daily News yesterday said the measly allocation to Health was likely to worsen the problems besetting the country’s dying health sector, which has seen hundreds of thousands of patients getting stranded at collapsing State hospitals.
As Zimbabwe’s political and economic rot has escalated over the past five years, the health sector has experienced myriad problems which include poor funding and severe shortages of drugs.
In the last three months alone, the country’s major referral hospitals have had to suspend many services as a result of the shortage of drugs, including painkillers — exposing how much things have fallen apart in the country since the early 2000s.
United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) and Harare Central Hospital are among the major health facilities that have had to suspend normal services as result of drug shortages, including pethidine — a synthetic compound used as a painkiller, especially for women in labour and during Caesarean operations.
And last month, Binga District Hospital, which is situated in one of Zimbabwe’s poorest regions, was forced to scale back its services as a result of water and electricity shortages. Daily News