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Zimbabwe Health Sector Revitalization Uphill Task

  • Tatenda Gumbo

In this Oct. 28, 2010 photo, a doctor and a nurse perform a circumcision procedure on a Zimbabwean soldier at a local clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe. The U.S. Agency for International Development is leading a war on AIDS that may help save hundreds of thousan

In this Oct. 28, 2010 photo, a doctor and a nurse perform a circumcision procedure on a Zimbabwean soldier at a local clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe. The U.S. Agency for International Development is leading a war on AIDS that may help save hundreds of thousan

Zimbabwe’s health services sector has over the years been ravaged by lack of funds to conduct various programs resulting in serious shortages of drugs.

In the late early 1990s, some doctors and nurses angered by low pay and allowances left for greener pastures in countries like Australia, Britain, South Africa and New Zealand.

By 2000, large numbers of these professionals had left the country, leaving state institutions barely managing to provide basic services and suffering from severe brain drain.

The situation worsened when historic inflation devastated the Zimbabwe dollar following unprecedented economic decline in the country between 2001 and 2009.

It was during this period that, according to the United Nations, a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe claimed more than 4,000 lives by March 2009 after affecting 90,000 people.

In 2012, two deaths were reported out of some 2,000 cases following a typhoid outbreak in some parts of the southern African nation.

Former Health Minister Dr. Henry Madzorera told VOA Studio 7 the downturn in the health sector is a true reflection of Zimbabwe's current harsh economic situation.

“We’ve got a very underfunded health sector, with disgruntled health workers and general deterioration of infrastructure. And I’d like to say we saw an improvement in the inclusive government but all the gains that we had during that time are being eroded,” said Madzorera.

More recently Zimbabwe’s doctors downed tools over allowances, while nurses in some provinces boycotted night shifts in government hospitals insisting they needed higher allowances and better working conditions.

Any humanitarian assistance has over the past few years been channeled through strategic development agencies as some top state officials were and are still under targeted sanctions imposed by the West.

Although humanitarian assistance continues, donor fatigue has affected the funding of some projects targeting mainly HIV/AIDS programs.

The European Union last week availed €12 million (US$13 million) aid package targeted at the revitalization of Zimbabwe’s health sector through the Health Transition Fund. The United States and other nations are supporting some programs in the health sector in an effort to also revitalize the sector.

Despite these challenges, health practitioners and advocates have continued to work within the sector attempting to smooth facilitate health delivery.

“There are certain things that we are doing right, we’ve got good health workers those workers who jump when problems like cholera arise and we must give them credit, they are very dedicated. But this continuous underfunding of the sector undermines their dedication,” said Dr. Madzorera.

He added that Zimbabwe has done well in implementing programs like the National AIDS Trust Fund, which has been making strides in addressing HIV/AIDS.

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