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Zimbabwe, 8 October 2010: Country needs massive investment in health to save lives

Health Investment Case for US $700 million launched by the inclusive Government of Zimbabwe

HARARE, 8 October 2010 - Zimbabwe’s Health Sector will need an additional investment of US $700 million over the next three years to reduce under five and maternal mortality by 38 percent and 17 percent, respectively, according to the Health Sector Investment Case, launched today by the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe.

Based on an analysis of the health system, the Health Investment Case provides a roadmap of the types of investments needed to put the country on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  It focuses on how to rebuild the system from the bottom up by investing more in primary health care systems, especially through community structures and strengthening referral systems to the larger district and urban hospitals. It was led by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and supported by the World Bank, WHO and UNICEF in an effort to help identify the major bottle necks and facilitate the revitaliZation of the health sector.

Zimbabwe is currently spending about US $9 per person on health, much less than the US $34 per person recommended by the WHO Macroeconomic Commission on Health. And in many cases, the costs of health care are shifting to the end user as health institutions struggle to survive, keeping even the most basic services out of reach of the poorest people.

For example, to deliver a baby in an urban public facility costs between US $10 and $50. The percentage of deliveries attended by trained medical personnel has declined over the past ten years with the poorest two quintiles most affected with an average of 30 percent drop. This has directly contributed to the increase in maternal deaths as many poor rural women - unable to afford the fees - end up delivering at home, and putting them at grave risk of death and other serious complications. Inequity in coverage of basic vaccination of children has also widened in the past 15 years. The poorest quintile suffered a 40 percent drop in coverage (from 72 percent in 1994 to 41 percent in 2009), whereas the same coverage declined only modestly from 82 percent to 69 percent for richest quintile. 

“The Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe has committed that by the end of 2011, no pregnant woman or child under five will be deprived of their right to health care because they cannot afford the fees,” said Deputy Prime Minister, Ms. Thokozani Khupe. “To realize this commitment, it is urgent that we succeed in making the necessary financial investments to build a comprehensive public health system that can cater for everyone."

In the last decade the country has witnessed a dramatic decline in primary health care services that has led to a striking increase in maternal and child mortality. Currently one in three children are stunted, 100 children are dying every day due to easily preventable diseases while maternal mortality is at 725 per 100,000 live births (2007 MoHCH, Maternal & Perinatal Study), more than double what it was in 1990.   

“The health sector has faced many challenges but we are committed as a government to return our health sector to its former glory and make it even better,” said Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr. Henry Madzorera. “The Health Investment Case has assisted us to identify areas of urgent need and to further strengthen and effectively coordinate channels of funding. We call on all partners to support our efforts in this regard.”

Preliminary estimates indicate that US $20 million will be urgently required per annum to abolish user fees.

“Our commitment on health funding as the inclusive government is very clear. In the first few months of life of the Inclusive Government we directed the little resources we had towards the health sector. This has made a huge difference in terms of health service delivery,” said Finance Minister, Mr. Tendai Biti. “We will continue to do everything within our means as a government to work on the abolishment of user fees and ensure that every Zimbabwean has access to quality health care. This is our responsibility as a government. Without a functioning health system there is no economy to even talk about, because production only comes from a healthy nation.” 

Already, investments by international partners and cash injections from treasury over the past year are breathing life into the health sector. Key results include the provision of incentives to health workers, and drug procurement and supply that have shown a significant impact on alleviating major health problems of the people. By June 2010, 91 percent of the 1475 health facilities of the country had 70 percent of the essential drugs of the agreed essential medicine package in their stores, compared to only 25 percent of health facilities had 70 percent of the essential drugs in May 2009.

A major immunization drive has occurred resulting in the immunization of over 5 million children 0-14 years (98 percent of the target population) against measles and other antigens in 2010 alone. Finally, the national Child Survival Strategy that clearly articulates the strategic direction of the national Child survival movement and ways of scaling up the high impact and cost-effective Child Survival interventions is in place aimed at reducing under-five mortality by 50 percent over the next five years. 

“We know from experience what needs to be done to prevent more children from dying from easily preventable and treatable diseases or mothers dying while giving life,” says Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Country Representative in Zimbabwe. “Since independence Zimbabwe invested in a public health system that sought to reach those in the remotest corners of this country. It is imperative that we recommit ourselves to this goal by finding the resources to rebuild this system, improve the quality of the services and reach those women and children who are currently missing out,” added Dr. Salama.

“The Health Sector Investment Case presents a roadmap of what needs to be done to rebuild Zimbabwe’s health sector and ultimately how we can work together to ensure that Zimbabwe attains MDG targets,” said WHO Country Representative Dr. Custodia Mondhlate. “We call upon the government and other development partners to support this rebuilding exercise, especially for Zimbabwe’s women and children who are the majority of those who rely on the government facilities for quality health care.”

For more information please contact:

Mr. Donald Mujiri, Ministry of Health and Child Welfare Public Relations Officer. Mobile: +263 712867337 

Ms Micaela Marques De Sousa, UNICEF Chief of Communications. Mobile: +263 2124268 or email

Please note that Broadcast quality video footage is available on request.



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