Doctors plead with govt to revive health sector

via Doctors plead with govt to revive health sector | The Zimbabwean by Own Correspondent 18.09.13

The new government must engage and deepen relations with the private sector, the international community and donors to improve the country’s ailing health care service, say Doctors for Human Rights.

The call comes after Zanu (PF) has announced its intention to push ahead with the seizure of a 49 percent stake in the 1,138 international companies operating in Zimbabwe, under its indigenisation policy. President Robert Mugabe derided private companies for what he described as a dishonest approach to business through greed.

Announcing his post-election vision soon after announcing his Cabinet after the disputed July 31 election, Mugabe said the presence of foreign capital in Zimbabwe’s private sector did not justify lack of state intervention, through indigenisation.

“No matter how sophisticated and how large (a company is), all they bring here is a shovel … to scoop a 49 percent stake…So you can see the amount of cheating. No, you cannot allow that to happen, you are being deprived of wealth that belongs to you. And we have said no, we can’t be cheated that way. Your economics is unacceptable; the theory of economics you preach is that capital matters more. No, our resources matter much more. You bring your capital, what is it? Mafoshoro (those shovels) iwayo? No matter how sophisticated, they are but still mafoshoro (shovels),” he said.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights emphasised in a recent statement the importance of good international relations with business, governments and donors to enable Zimbabwe to provide welfare support to the poor, with the specific aim of reducing mother and child deaths.

Women continue to die during childbirth as most deliveries are done in unsafe institutions because of poverty. The doctors also said priority should be given to cervical cancer through increased access to information and cancer screening centres.

Sixty seven in every 100.000 Zimbabwean women suffer from cervical cancer — one of the highest rates in the world. Latest reports show that Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals – the country’s biggest referral centre – recently installed cancer treatment equipment worth $8 million.

Thomas Zigora, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said the equipment would provide relief to cancer patients who previously relied on hospitals neighbouring countries for such services.

“Now all the machines are functioning at full throttle,” said Zigora. The new machines can accommodate up to 100 patients a day.

“Policy planning and implementation on the right to health must be all inclusive and participatory with community involvement, ownership and accountability for health being major components of Zimbabwe’s health policies,” says the ZADHR.

Health care services must be seen as a major priority in line with the requirements of the new Constitution, which lists health care among the people’s absolute rights. It is therefore important, said the ZADHR, for the government to understand that human rights are indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

“As such, the entire bill of rights in the new constitution must be read to the effect that all the other rights exist to reinforce the right to healthcare,” says the statement. “Other ancillary rights such as the right to food and clean water are useful in ensuring good health.”

Enshrined in the Constitution is the right to safe, clean and potable water; and sufficient food. With an expected 2.2 million people without food in 2014, the Zanu (PF) government faces a major challenge to meet this obligation.

“There is need to translate these rights into a reality for the people of Zimbabwe,” said the doctors.

Among several international obligations, the Abuja Declaration of 2001 specifically requires governments to commit 15 percent of their annual budgets to the health sector.

“It is important for the government to realize that the right to health cannot be achieved through the provision of health services and healthcare alone,” said the ZADHR. “It also depends on the realization of other human rights … rights are by their nature complementary and mutually reinforcing. The right to health cannot exist in the absence of other rights.”

On HIV/Aids, the doctors urged the authorities to scale up the treatment of survivors. Out of 1,2 million in need of care, only 350,000 were receiving life-saving drugs.

In the past four years, Zimbabwe benefited from a Health Transition Fund, a brainchild of international donors, to rehabilitate the ailing sector. The doctors called for the strengthening of the Fund with additional resources sourced from local initiatives.