The People’s Health Movement (PHM) supports the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) statement highlighting the need for an urgent political intervention to resolve the crippled health situation in Zimbabwe, which has led to a strike by senior doctors. Over the past few days, senior doctors in Zimbabwe have downed tools protesting over the terrible situation at the country’s major hospital (Parirenyatwa Hospital). The hospital has no medicines, equipment and even sundries to assist patients and the situation is similar in other hospitals, including Harare Central hospital. The hospital situation should be treated as an emergency. There is no urgency and lack of prioritisation, costing many lives (including babies). Children in particular, who are the hope for the future, are becoming unnecessarily disabled or dying at birth, all preventable situations with the correct equipment, as explained by Dr Azza Mashumba in her desperate cry for help. This ultimately puts great stress on the hospital staff, but also stress and a financial burden not only on struggling families and communities, but on the whole nation.
Zimbabwe’s public health services have since Independence (1980) been a buffer between people and the impoverishing and fatal impacts of ill health caused ultimately by poverty and deteriorating environmental and social conditions. The massive decline in the public health sector is thus a major crisis for poor people in the country, and leaves people starkly exposed to severe risk.
People with chronic diseases like diabetes are struggling to meet costs of their treatment. Such groups have difficulty taking medications when they do not have enough food to eat. We are concerned that the same lack of information and silence that concealed the cholera epidemic in its early stages is also leading to inadequate action on other health problems. This undermines an early response to preventing and managing these problems in the community.
While there is significant health infrastructure and a highly literate population, these assets are inadequate in the context of lack of medicine, equipment, services and staff, leaving public hospitals and clinics non-functional with consequences in preventable loss of life.
In all of this, CWGH urges the government of Zimbabwe to bring people back into the centre of focus and to involve communities in their plans on the way forward. Networks and community health workers have the ability to organise and support primary health care, even under harsh conditions.
Only with public accountability and involvement in the health system can the Zimbabwean people be assured that their health financing actually pays for medicines, supplies and trained health workers to treat current patients and to rebuild the national health system.
PHM supports the suggestions made by CWGH for the government to make a swift response through the Minister of Health to end this “endemic crisis by widening the participation of stakeholders in the development and implementation of policies for better health and developing innovative and new approaches in management and delivery of services in ways which enhance access, community satisfaction and local accountability”.
PHM therefore calls on the government:
- To tackle the inequitable distribution of resources and poor governance. It is unacceptable that lives are lost and yet many ministers are receiving several cars each in an economy suffering high levels of unemployment, extreme fuel costs and very limited currency;
- To ensure the correct and transparent use of existing health financing strategies such as the Health Levy;
- To honour its commitment to allocating 15% of the national budget to the health sector;
We express our solidarity with the senior doctors and all health workers in Zimbabwe. We pledge our support to health workers who work tirelessly in the interests of their patients’ health and well-being, as part of their commitment to realising their patients’ human rights, including the right to health. Health is a fundamental human right and everyone must enjoy this right.
We demand urgent action by the Zimbabwean government to make medicines, equipment and sundries immediately available in all public health facilities to restore health and life. We also demand the Zimbabwean government respect its constitution which is the supreme law of the country, as well as regional instruments and international treaties which guarantees the right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. At this time there is an urgent need for relief for those injured and displaced by the effects of the cyclone which has hit Southern-Eastern Zimbabwe.
PHM is a global network bringing together grassroots health activists, policy maker’s civil society organizations, practitioners, and academic institutions from around the world, particularly from low and middle income countries (L&MIC) www.phmovement.org .
On behalf of the People’s Health Movement East and Southern Africa.
PHM East and Southern Africa Region.