By Our Health Correspondent
Harare, April 15, 2014 – Western donors, for long criticized by the Zanu PF government for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe, provided over $300 million in health funding to Zimbabwe in 2013, according to statistics provided by United States Embassy officials last week. The bulk of this funding was provided by the United States government which contributed $129 million channeled towards HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria programs.
“The $129 million in U.S. support represents the largest contribution to the health sector by a single foreign donor,” said the United States Embassy in a statement published in its official website. “The expenditure from foreign donors almost matches the contribution from the Zimbabwe government which announced a budget allocation of $380 million towards the health sector in early 2013.”
During a public discussion session at the Embassy’s eastgate offices recently, the two senior health officers based at the Embassy explained how the U.S. government used its health allocation in Zimbabwe. They flagged the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which has committed $95 million towards HIV and AIDS efforts in the country.
“Our impact is through strategic coordination and integration,” said Peter Halpert, Health, Population and Nutrition team leader at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Zimbabwe. “We focus on strengthening and leveraging key multilateral organizations and are very active with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria with about a third of every dollar that is coming in to Zimbabwe representing contributions from the United States government,” said Halpert.
Another U.S. embassy official Dr. Peter Kilmarx, Country Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-Zimbabwe) said one “one of the cornerstones of U.S. intervention in health is to encourage country ownership; and as a result we have invested in country-led plans as well as built sustainability through health systems strengthening.”
He cited the post-graduate program in public health at the University of Zimbabwe as one of the key interventions supported by the U.S. through his organization which receives the bulk of its funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Responding to queries from the audience; who included parliamentarians, the two U.S. embassy officials hailed the health systems in Zimbabwe.
“In many things, particularly in HIV and now in malaria, Zimbabwe has world class programs… everybody looks to Zimbabwe for their health programs as the leader,” said Halpert, who has worked with USAID health programs in Zimbabwe for over 14 years. He cited significant progress made in anti-retroviral treatment and the numbers of people tested for HIV.
During his tenure in Zimbabwe, Halpert said he had witnessed how USAID’s investment of about half a billion dollars over the last decade had contributed to a significant decline in annual HIV and AIDS mortality from an estimated 147,800 in 2005 to 41,500 in 2013.
Among other things, he said, U.S. funding is providing life-saving anti-retrovirals to 160,000 people living with HIV, a figure which represents approximately 28% of the total number of Zimbabweans receiving the medication. To prevent malaria, USAID provided over 690,000 long-lasting, insecticide-treated nets, contributing to an increase in the proportion of people who slept under a treated net from 19 percent in 2009 to 58 percent in 2013. Through USAID, the U.S. provided 1.2 million malaria test kits and over 550,000 malaria prevention tablets for pregnant women, resulting in a significant national increase in the number of women on malaria prophylaxis from eight percent of pregnant woman in 2010 to 75 percent in 2012.
According to research reports, key health challenges in Zimbabwe include HIV, TB and Malaria which are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in Zimbabwe. At 960 per 100,000, Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in Africa. In addition, about one in four of Zimbabwe’s children have lost one parent or both. Other challenges include the exodus of skilled professional staff, particularly doctors and midwives and social workers.
For the 2013 period different Western donors provided as follows towards health delivery in Zimbabwe : Global Fund $94m for HIV/TB/ Malaria, HTF $60m ,CIDA $1m, ISP (DIFD & SIDA) $28,CIFF $8 and World Bank $6m.