BY KENNETH MATIMAIRE
COVID-19 related expenditure has enabled Zimbabwe to finally meet the Abuja Declaration target of 15% of national budget for the health sector as a total of ZW$25 billion (US$294,1 million) was spent towards the sector last year.
Zimbabwe, which relies on donor funds for most of public healthcare, never met the mandatory quota since ratifying the declaration 20 years ago in 2001.
The development comes at a time when the government has been failing to meet the Abuja Declaration target which calls for the allocation of 15% of the national budget towards the health sector.
Statistics gathered highlight that in 2020, the health budget allocation stood at 10% up from 7% the previous year but still fell short of the Abuja Declaration target recommendation of 15%.
Unicef Zimbabwe is on record indicating that “more needs to be done”.
However, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said they did not only meet but exceeded the Abuja Declaration target by 5% during the full calendar year of 2020.
Ncube attributed this to Covid-19-related expenditure as his ministry continuously offered unbudgeted funding to fight the virus.
“In 2020 we met the Abuja target of 15% of the budget being focused on health. We did. In fact if you add up what we did due to Covid-19 response, we ended up at 20% going to health last year. It’s a major issue.
“In fact, when I look at the overall expenditure driven by Covid-19, in 2020, we spent close to ZW$25 billion, way above the health sector budget,” he said.
Ncube said most of the expenditure went towards the extension and revamping of hospitals.
These include Mpilo and United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) in Bulawayo; Wilkins and Parirenyatwa hospitals in Harare and Mutare’s Infectious Diseases Hospital (now Mutare General Hospital) and Victoria Chitepo Hospital formerly Mutare General Hospital.
“Most hospitals have benefited from our efforts in response to Covid-19 but also to raise the quality of health centres right across the country. I also visited Mutare General Hospital (Victoria Chitepo Hospital). They put in a new oxygen tank in response to Covid-19. It is a huge oxygen tank.
“So, we are also extending the (hospital) buildings,” he said.
Ncube added that the government has also been providing Covid-19 risk allowances to healthcare workers, acquisition of vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE).