Pamela Shumba Bulawayo Bureau
LIFE expectancy in the country has shot up from 37 years to 59 while a significant drop in new HIV infections has been recorded, raising hopes that the country is on course to achieving its ambitious target to manage the pandemic by 2020.
The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa, said his ministry was working hard as infant mortality and maternal mortality had also significantly dropped while life expectancy shot up.
“Zimbabwe had one of the highest HIV/Aids prevalence rates in Africa, but we worked so hard that we have the highest drop in HIV statistics on the continent to the extent that people from other regions come here to learn how to tackle epidemics such as HIV.
“New infections have dropped drastically.
“The likelihood of an HIV positive mother giving birth to an HIV positive baby was at 40 percent, but because of treatment that we give it’s now at 5,4 percent,” said Dr Parirenyatwa in an interview last week.
He said the ministry’s mantra has always been prevention and this has been adopted by other countries.
“Now I’m being invited all over the world to talk about prevention. Recently I was in Rome after being invited by the Pope to talk about prevention,” said the health minister.
He said such significant improvements show that the country’s health system is on the road to recovery despite the challenges being faced.
“When you want to see the markers of an improving health system you look at issues like the life expectancy and the prevalence of epidemics such as HIV and Aids. Our life expectancy had fallen to 37 years, but it has shot up to 59 years.
“Although 59 years is low, the fact that it’s going up is a huge improvement. Infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate have also come down drastically,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He said at one point the country was recording 1 100 deaths per 100 000 women who died while giving birth, but the statistics have come down to 614 deaths per 100 000 women dying while giving birth.
“It’s still high for me, but the big drop is a marker for a health system that’s improving,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He said it was important for people to realise that in spite of the challenges that the health system was facing, the ministry has worked hard towards protecting people’s lives.
“These are the things that we don’t recognise here that Zimbabwe is a beacon country in terms of fighting HIV.
“In spite of the challenges that our health system is going through, we should look at the milestones that we have managed to achieve as a country,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He added that if funds permit the ministry is looking forward to upgrading infrastructure and equipping hospitals and training specialists in the country to continue improving the country’s health system.
He said his ministry was a huge organisation with 37 000 employees.
“We have six central hospitals, three in Bulawayo and three in Harare. We have eight provincial hospitals, 63 district hospitals and 47 mission hospitals.
“On top of that, we also have 23 general hospitals and 1 211 health centres. We expect each of these to be working very well and service delivery to be excellent,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.