Covid-19 reduces partners’ health funding

Source: Covid-19 reduces partners’ health funding | Herald (Top Stories)

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Health Reporter

Funding from development partners towards the successor to the Health Development Fund could decrease because of greater demand on international health budgets from Covid-19 and other global financial challenges.

The fund, which is managed by UNICEF and UNFPA, was launched in 2011 to support strengthening of the health system in Zimbabwe under the Health Transition Fund.

Donors included the European Union, Sweden, DFID, Irish Aid and the Global Vaccine Alliance and their contributions have been used to finance prioritised interventions across the seven thematic areas of the Health Development Fund programme.

These areas include maternal, new-born and child health; sexual and reproductive health and rights; medicines, vaccines and commodities; human resources for health; health financing, policy planning, and monitoring and evaluation; and technical assistance and innovation.

Health Development Fund Zimbabwe chairperson Ms Geraldine O’Callaghan this week said Covid-19 had changed the way the world looked at health care systems, exposing vulnerabilities and highlighting the importance of sustained long-term investment in health systems, infrastructure and health workers.

“We are seeing increasing pressure on international health budgets including in the UK, due to the unprecedented challenges of the global financial context. Although economies are slowly recovering in donor countries, a reduction in donor funds in the medium term is likely. The successor to the Health Development Fund is likely to be significantly smaller,” she said.

She said the reduction in funds could be a catalyst for a more strategic conversation on how to increase the resilience and sustainability of Zimbabwe’s domestic health sector financing to enable it to withstand external shocks.

Last year, the EU provided new funds amounting to over US$41 million as additional top up funding to the US$99 million that the EU contributed to the Health Development Fund since 2015. Sweden also contributed an additional US$2 million for direct use in 2020.

Combined with contributions from the other donors, there was increased coverage of key reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and nutrition services leading to better outcomes for children and women.

Ms O’Callaghan said between 2016 and 2020, external financing had accounted for 65 percent of overall health financing in Zimbabwe and there was a need for increased domestic financing in the sector.

Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Abuja declaration, where countries pledged to allocate at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to improving the health sector. The country’s health sector is amongst the highest-funded social sectors in the National Budget with 13 percent. However, health sector financing significantly increased this year to 22 percent of the budget as a result of funding directed towards the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.