BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
THE Health ministry has urged Finance minister Mthuli Ncube to revise his 2022 budgetary allocation towards COVID-19 interventions as the country is bracing for a fourth wave of the global pandemic.
Ncube allocated $117,7 billion (14,9%) of the $968,2 billion 2022 national budget towards the Health ministry. Although it is an improvement from previous years, the allocation, however, still falls short of the 15% threshold recommended by the Abuja Declaration.
Ncube also announced that government would set aside contingency funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said government would meet the full costs of procurement of COVID-19 vaccines under the Gavi co-financing agreement, with government accounting for $350 million.
But Health ministry acting finance director Lynette Tennis told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health last Thursday that government only allocated half of the ministry’s bid for COVID-19 interventions.
“On COVID-19 funds, we submitted a request of about $15 billion. However, only $7 billion was availed out of what we requested, meaning that there is a shortfall,” Tennis said.
She said in 2021, the Finance ministry only allocated them 10% of their bid during the first quarter, and gave them 50% in the last quarter.
Tennis said COVID-19 was one of the several challenges faced by the Health ministry, including a shortage of project vehicles, lengthy procurement processes and lack of comprehensive maintenance plans for buildings and equipment.
“The 2022 budget has marginally declined to 12,16% in terms of allocation, compared to the 2021 allocation which was 12,87%.
“There was a marginal fall of the health budget allocation.
“The public health budget is about 45% short of what we expected to receive from the Ministry of Finance,” she said.
“Currently, we are preparing for the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we wouldn’t want a repeat of what happened before if there are sharp increases in cases come January. Probably more funds can be added to assist us.”
On the allocation for communicable diseases, Tennis said it was also insufficient.
“We did not get what we bid for, especially for Parirenyatwa Hospital. It is our hope that more funding will be availed for the central hospital as it is the main referral centre for all our various institutions around the country,” she said.
“On blood supplies, we requested $1,4 billion but we got $500 million. This is a critical area, we need more funds to be able to get blood supplies. It’s really difficult to be running around in the middle of the year.
“If Parliament can assist us to lobby for more in terms of blood supplies.”
Tennis said the ministry had also been getting 85% of funding for HIV and Aids, malaria, tuberculosis, maternal health and other programmes from external development partners like the Global Fund (40%), United States’ President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief partners (45%), a situation that has made it critical for government to look for more financing methods for the health sector.