HARARE, ZIMBABWE —
At the height of Zimbabwe’s economic collapse, health care was one of the most affected sectors. Citing poor and frustrating working conditions, doctors and nurses left for countries like Great Britain and New Zealand, looking for greater professional opportunities.
The country's health sector continues to face challenges ranging from obsolete equipment, lack of essential drugs, inadequate staff--especially specialists--and high cost of services.
But senior government doctor Kudzai Masinire says much has changed since Western countries established the Health Transitional Fund, putting more than a half-billion dollars into reviving Zimbabwe's public health system.
“Since the coming of the HTF, most of the drugs, which were no longer available but critical for saving lives, are now available at most facilities at decent availability rates," Masinire said. "The HTF has also managed in retaining critical personnel across the country.”
Mothers line up with their children for treatment at Bikita Rural District Hospital about 500 kilometers south of Harare. (Sebastian Mhofu for VOA)
However, Zimbabwe's current health budget of $380 million isn't sufficient to sustain the health care sector on its own.
Three years after the Health Transitional Fund was established, there is a growing feeling that if Zimabawe's government does not give higher priority to its own health care, it will not see much improvement, even with Western help.
E.U. health and HIV/AIDS adviser Dr. Paolo Barduagni spoke with journalists about HTF's progress and future.
The European Union is one of the fund's main donors and Barduagni says the government's minimal contribution toward its health system makes it difficult for the donor community to justify its existence in Zimbabwe.
“At this stage, I do not think there is a possibility to increase the international commitment towards Zimbabwe," Barduagni said. "First, there has to be a step ahead from the government, so without a commitment it will not be possible.”
Zimbabwe's health system was once one of the best in Africa, but Barduagni said for it to regain its former position, the government should prioritize hospital infrastructure development and improve on drug procurement.
While the government's health budget has improved salaries, the 2013 budget funds about two percent of the medical drugs Zimbabwe requires.
Zimbabwe Ministry of Health Pharmacies Director Ropafadzo Hove says the government is working to ensure an increase in health funding.