Zambia scrapped health fees on Saturday, one of the first benefits to flow from debt relief granted to African countries last year by the G8 group of wealthy nations. Many poor people across Zambia often die because they cannot afford health care and are forced to resort to ineffectual traditional remedies. This narrative depicts the impact of this abolition of user fees in the eyes of a Zambian man.
Resource allocation and health financing
This document, by the Zambian Ministry of Health and PHRplus, summarises how the National Health Accounts (NHA) system was used to assess both general health and HIV and AIDS-specific spending in Zambia in 2002. The document also reviews health care use and borrowing patterns for people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA). Findings show that the private sector, including households, finance 15.3 per cent of HIV and AIDS spending, whereas the public sector finances 7.2 per cent. Findings also reveal that PLWHA spend 12 times more on health care than those who are not infected. Traditional healers were also found to play a major role as providers of health care for people living with HIV and AIDS.
Zimbabwe's Health Financing Policy and strategy launched in June 2018 was informed by WHO guidelines on health financing embedded in a health systems framework. The policy and strategy acknowledge that the way funds are raised and allocated and the way services are paid for influences how services are accessed by the population. It focuses on better use of available resources, and increased Government allocation to health leading to reduced direct out of pocket payments by households, which will in turn reduce financial barriers to access for the poor. It also brings in innovation in exploring more options to raise funding for health, and the creation of a pool of funds to ensure better management of health funds. Emphasis on achieving sustainable health financing is explicit in the Health Financing Strategy so that gains can be sustained. The financing seeks to ensure that the current National Health Strategy (2016-2020) is well financed and implemented to take steps towards financial risk protection and ultimately universal health coverage.
The Zimbabwe Parliamentary Portfolio committee on Health says it will not entertain a flimsy allocation of funds to the health sector in the forthcoming 2018 budget presentation unless the 15% Abuja target is met. Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Abuja Declaration of 2001 in which African Union countries pledged to allocate at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to improving the health sector. Since then, the country is yet to meet the target. In the 2017 budget, the health sector only got 7 percent of total government spending. Non state organisations expect the treasury to meet the Abuja declaration which states that 15 percent of the National budget should be dedicated to health to show commitment to ensuring a healthy and productive nation. Presenting the 2017 national budget, the then Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that $281,9 million will be channeled towards the sector inclusive of remuneration for the public health care personnel ($223 million), operations and maintenance ($29,6 million), as well as capital expenditure that has been pegged at $29,5 million. Binga North MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda sharing his experience in Uganda learnt that if a budget ignores the plight of the marginalized it doesn’t get Parliamentary approval to be passed. “One thing I took in Uganda, they have got a law which says unless the budget meets certain criteria or takes care of people that are generally marginalized that budget should not be passed. Its part and parcel of their law. Its never passed,” the parliamentarian said.
HIV has severely affected the overall health of people in the southern Africa region by impacting directly on individuals and their families, and by placing additional burdens on economies, social structures and health services. Poorer people are disproportionately affected because they have fewer resources to deal with the impact of HIV on their daily lives. Now that international advocacy has led to reductions in process of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), there is concern that poorer people will not have access to these drugs. To examine these issues, a study was commissioned by the Regional Network for Equity in Health in Southern Africa (EQUINET) and Oxfam GB to highlight equity issues in HIV and AIDS, health sector responses and treatment access in four countries in southern Africa.
Zimbabwe government spending towards health this year averaged US$21 per person, lower than 2016 levels, the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), in Zimbabwe, said in its contribution to the 2018 National Budget consultations. CWGH said the per capita allocation towards health is one of the lowest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region whose average spending on health per person is $146. CWGH raised concerns about the total budget allocation to health, which has remained lower than the 15% of the total budget committed to in the Abuja Declaration. The CWGH said Zimbabwe has made significant gains in the area of HIV prevalence, child and maternal mortality, but noted an over-dependence on external funding, poor infrastructure and ill-equipped hospitals, as well as a worrying ratio of patients to health personnel. The CWGH observed that Zimbabwe relies heavily on imports for drugs, equipment and other hospital consumables, and called for government to broaden the tax base to fund health.
A rise of more than 100 percent in the price of antiretroviral drugs is likely to put the life-prolonging medication beyond the reach of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans living with HIV. Pharmacists in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo increased the price of a monthly course of ARVs from an average of Z$30,000 (US$120 at the official exchange rate) to between Z$80,000 (US$320) and Z$100,000 (US$400), telling IRIN the price hike was an inevitable response to the country's economic woes, which has seen inflation surge to 1,281 percent, and foreign currency become a scarce item.
The Health Transition Fund (HTF) is a $435 million, five-year programme (2011-2015) that aimed to revitalize Zimbabwe’s health sector by improving the lives of children and women. It was funded by multiple external funders from the European Union, Canada, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom and SIDA Sweden, and managed by UNICEF in cooperation with the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health. It has four pillars: 1) Improvement of maternal, newborn and child health as well as nutrition, 2) Provision of essential medicines, vaccines and technologies, 3) Human resources including assistance with health worker management, training and retention, 4) Health policy, planning and finance. It aimed to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters and under-5 mortality by two thirds (as stated in the Millennium Development Goals) and eliminate user fees for children under the age of five and pregnant and lactating women by 2015. It sought to support the halving of the number of underweight children under five and combating, halting and reversing trends in HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. A steering committee, chaired by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health, oversees and directs the rollout of the fund and defines priority interventions within each of the four thematic areas, while funders provide support to monitoring, evaluation and technical expertise.
This briefing proposes that while prospects for developing countries are often shaped by domestic and regional politics and aid, it is necessary to looks at beyond aid at issues like trade, migration, investment, environmental issues, security and technology. The authors explore the progress made towards policy coherence and conceptualise a three-phase cycle: phase 1 includes setting and prioritising objectives, which requires political commitment and policy statements; phase 2 looks at policy coordination and the implementation mechanisms by establishing formal mechanisms at inter-ministerial level for coordination and policy arbitration; and phase 3 is about effective systems of monitoring, analysis and reporting. The paper concludes by recommending that the Beyond Aid agenda could help drive faster progress towards partnerships for community development and policies that are more ‘development-friendly’, in practice as well as on paper.
South Africa’s version of a soda tax, called the Health Promotion Levy, will turn one-year-old in April. It was introduced to fight soaring rates of costly health conditions like obesity and diabetes. According to the Healthy Living Alliance’s (Heala) Sbongile Nkosi, excessive consumption of sugary beverages is “a major cause of obesity” and “also increases the risk of diabetes, liver and kidney damage, heart disease and some cancers”. Nkosi also criticised the beverage industry which, she said, “have specifically targeted poor communities who have the least access to quality health services”. In his budget speech, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced that the local tax on sugary drinks would be increased slightly in order to account for inflation. But Heala is pushing for the taxation rate to be doubled to bring the country in line with WHO guidelines.