Relief agency cuts health support to Zim

The Red Cross has ended its support for 33 healthcare institutions

By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
28 January 2014

The International Committee of the Red Cross has ended its support for 33 healthcare institutions in Zimbabwe.

The relief agency intervened in 2006 at a time when social service delivery in the country had collapsed due to ZANU PF’s destructive policies.

The agency spent $3 million supporting 16 rural health facilities, 13 facilities in Harare, and four other hospitals with medicines, equipment and personnel training.

Some of the equipment installed at the health facilities included baby resuscitation machines, electricity invertors and generators and waste incinerators at maternity clinics. Waiting facilities for expectant women in rural areas were also refurbished.

Zimbabwe’s Health Minister David Parirenyatwa last week said the humanitarian group terminated its assistance because the country is no longer in “crisis”.

This is despite another humanitarian agency, the World Food Programme, saying 2.2 million Zimbabweans are in critical need of food assistance.

Tendayi Sengwe, the spokesman for the relief agency, said the ICRC had achieved its objective of rebuilding the capacity of municipalities to provide health services.

“We succeeded in ensuring that health services were available between 2006 and 2008 when a lot of communities increasingly didn’t have access to these services,” Sengwe told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday.

“Our intervention also helped these local authority facilities to achieve a level of stability that wasn’t there when we started the programme in 2006.

“We now feel that local authorities are now more in need of organisations that specialise in longer term, aid development-type situations, rather than our emergency-focused mandate.

“The hand-over of these completed programmes has been amicable and gradual and we are confident that we have adequately prepared and trained the local authorities to carry on with the programmes,” Sengwe added.

The relief agency will still lend support to Zimbabwe’s health ministry through the Health Transition Fund, a multi-funded initiative.

“But starting this year, our main priorities are now on working with the country’s prison services where we will be monitoring the treatment of inmates, as well as the de-mining programme in south-eastern Zimbabwe,” Sengwe said.

The just-ended programme benefitted more than 180,000 people who sought treatment at municipal health centres in Chivi, Makoni, and Tsholotsho.

In Harare, 1.2 million people received medical assistance through the programme. In recent years, the city’s health facilities have struggled to cope with outbreaks of waterborne diseases, with humanitarian groups stepping in to provide support.

All 92 local authorities in the country are facing unprecedented cash-flow problems which have further compromised service delivery after ZANU PF ordered them to write off rate payers’ debts, as part of the party’s poll gimmicks.

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