By Buhle Tshavango.
National Assembly Proportional Representation Member for Bulawayo Honourable Thokozani Khupe has called on the government to fulfil its Abuja Declaration promise which has been ignored since its enactment.
Under the Abuja Declaration of 2001, Zimbabwe and other African countries undertook to commit at least 15 percent of their national budgets to health as a way of improving the sector and reduce donor dependency syndrome.
Speaking in the National Assembly during debate on the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care fact finding mission report to Zambia on cancer management and blood services , Khupe bemoaned that it is now almost 17 years since the declaration but nothing has been done to implement it and a lot of people are dying as a result.
“I became a Member of Parliament in 2000 and I do not remember a single year where health was allocated 15 percent. Health is very important and every Government is supposed to prioritise health because a healthy nation produces and an unhealthy nation does not produce,” said Khupe.
Honourable Khupe’s sentiments concur with those of the Community Working Group on Health which highlighted during the 2018 budget consultations that meeting the Abuja Declaration target will go a long way in improving public health adding that empirical evidence has shown that a 1 percent spending on public healthcare reduces child and maternal mortality rates whilst improving life expectancy.
The MDC-T vice president added that the revival of the health sector has the potential to attract the much needed investors to the country as compared to a country with poor health.
“Investors will not come to a country which has got a high disease burden. This is why it is important for the government to take health issues seriously, because they have got so many implications in terms of production and investors who want to come into their countries and invest,” she said.
Meanwhile, Honourable Khupe has called for more cancer treatment facilities beyond Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa in Harare adding that accessibility to the facilities will help reduce cost of travel by patients.
The two cancer treatment centres, (Mpilo and Parirenyatwa) are expected to cater for the estimated 13 million Zimbabwean population and Honourable Khupe said “you expect a person to come all the way from Binga to Mpilo, from Beitbridge or Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe to Parirenyatwa, it is not feasible.
“They cannot afford that because there are transport costs involved, accommodation and they are supposed to pay for cancer screening and treatment. Cancer treatment is very expensive. This is why we are saying government must prioritise health so that 15 percent is given to health. Once 15 percent is given to health, I think they will be able to deal with all these issues,” she said.