Devolution transforms Matabeleland health sector
DEVOLUTION funds have transformed the health sector with new clinics emerging in several districts in Matabeleland as the Second Republic steps up the inclusive developmental philosophy of leaving no one and no place behind.
The programme has helped local authorities in Matabeleland and other parts of the country boost health service delivery, particularly in rural areas, where a majority of citizens quite often face long journeys when ill to obtain treatment.
Leaving no one and no place behind has become synonymous with the leadership of President Mnangagwa, who has made it a buzz-phrase that has found resonance among the people in both rural and urban areas.
Devolution funds are assisting local authorities fulfil their obligation of ensuring improved access to social amenities across the country through development of key infrastructure such as clinics, classroom blocks, roads and bridges among other facilities.
Resettlement areas are the major beneficiaries of devolution funds as social amenities are being provided in the areas.
With social amenities and infrastructure development being some of the major pillars of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), councils have dedicated a larger chunk of devolution funds to healthcare provision through the construction of clinics.
Chronicle news crew yesterday visited the state-of the art Mlugulu Clinic in Ward 24 of the largely rural Matobo District.
The facility is now complete and ready for commissioning. The clinic has a spacious waiting room, a screening room and a maternity ward with delivery and post-natal rooms with showers and toilets.
The immaculate facility has been tiled with fitted cupboards. There are also two blocks of staff cottages each accommodating four families. A solar-powered borehole supplies the clinic with water. The dispensary is also stocked with drugs and other consumables.
The clinic will service nine villages in Ward 24, which include Tshatshane, Jeqe, Malunga, MaFuyana, Mafela, Mqabuko, Lookout, Sizingeni and Emncwazini.
Villagers who spoke to Chronicle news crew commended Government for the addressing their plight.
Mr Edward Sibanda of Malunga village said the Mlugulu Clinic has come as a huge relief to villagers who had to walk 20 kilometres to reach the nearest health centres either in Bhazha or Marula near Plumtree Town.
“As a local community, we were forced to travel to either Marula or Bhazha clinics because we didn’t have a health facility that catered for us. We thank the Government for funding the construction of this clinic through devolution and as a community, we chipped in with labour,” he said.
Another villager, Ms Ntombizodwa Mhlanga said the community is excited about the new clinic.
“We were travelling more than 20 kilometres to nearest clinics in Marula and Bhazha. Sometimes we failed to secure transport to ferry the sick or pregnant women to the clinic. With a health facility in our locality, the challenges that we are facing will be a thing of the past,” she said.
Mr Samson Ngwenya of Malunga village said the completion of Mlugulu Clinic will revolutionise health delivery in the area.
“For a long time, as a community, we have been appealing to authorities to establish a clinic in Ward 24 given the long distances that people travelled to neighbouring health facilities, but we never got a positive response until after the Second Republic,” he said.
“We laud the Government for attending to our plea. We used to walk long distances to Bhazha Clinic or Marula for medical attention.”
Mr Ngwenya’s sentiments were echoed by Mr Ndabezinhle Mguni, who said the new clinic is a boon for expectant mothers.
Last year, Matobo Rural District Council was allocated $42,3 million and the bulk of the money was directed towards outstanding projects. These include Mlugulu Clinic and construction of Nhlupho Clinic in Ward 8, which is nearing completion.
Matobo Rural District Council chief executive officer Mr Elvis Sibanda said they completed Mlugulu Clinic through devolution funds in its efforts to deliver primary health care to communal people.
Mr Sibanda said the clinic is set to service a population of 2 080 in nine villages.
He said Matobo RDC is working with local communities to build more clinics at local level.
“As a local authority in 2015 we came up with a resolution that every ward should have a clinic. As we speak every ward is constructing a clinic. The communities are constructing clinics on their own, but as soon as we get devolution funds we adopt a clinic within a community,” he said.
Mr Sibanda said out of 24 wards, council is constructing a clinic in each ward. He said the 24 clinics under construction will complement the six existing ones.
“Devolution has come handy in terms of service delivery, first and foremost we procured a tractor and this tractor is used in collection of refuse in Maphisa Township as well in the rehabilitation of roads. We also mounted street lights after we realised that there was a lot of mugging and theft within the town centre and the township,” said Mr Sibanda.
Hwange Rural District Council chief executive officer, Mr Phindile Ncube said the local authority is constructing three clinics in the area using devolution funds.
He said one of the clinics will soon open upon getting its registration certificate.
“We have Leona Clinic which is 99 percent complete and it should be commissioned anytime next month on condition that we meet the conditions of regulation with the Ministry of Health and Child Care. We also have Mashala Clinic, which is now at roof level and Nekatamba Clinic at slab level,” said Mr Ncube.
He said the allocation of devolution funds speaks to country’’s laws where local authorities are expected to receive funding from the central purse but this was not happening before the Second Republic came to power.
Mr Ncube said in line with health ministry regulations communities must not travel more than 5km to access health care.
“We have 20 wards and it is our hope that each ward must have a clinic. It also depends on the number of people in each settlement because the number of people per settlement can influence the number of clinics to be constructed per ward. We might have more than one clinic per ward depending on the number of people in that ward,” said Mr Ncube.
Bubi RDC chief executive officer Dr Patson Mlilo said they have been able to construct a state-of-the-art clinic in Bona, a resettlement area.
Dr Mlilo said devolution funds are a game changer in service delivery for local authorities.
“The revenue that we are getting through rates is inadequate to finance some of the service delivery projects that we want to implement. However, through devolution funds, we have been able to build a state-of-the-art clinic in Bona, which we would not have been able to complete without devolution funds,” he said.
“We have a target to build two clinics per year so that we service our populations in terms of our needs assessment.”
Dr Mlilo said the local authority so far has 11 health care facilities and requires 12 more to effectively deliver primary health care to rural communities.
Bubi RDC is targeting to have a clinic per ward to reduce the distances travelled by communities for them to obtain health care.
Devolution is enshrined in the 2013 Constitution, but its implementation began in earnest with the coming in of the Second Republic under President Mnangagwa when funds were budgeted to top up what local authorities raise themselves for essential infrastructure development in their areas.
Beitbridge RDC chief executive officer Mr Peter Moyo said they also prioritised the completion of Tshabili Clinic area built through devolution funds.
The resources were mobilised through a partnership involving council and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The clinic has since opened doors and is servicing close to 5 000 people.
The project, which started in 2003 has been progressing at a snail’s pace due to resource constraints.
Mr Moyo said clinics are part of the major infrastructure development initiatives they have implemented under the devolution concept in the last two years.
With over $42 billion earmarked for devolution this year, more health facilities are expected as President Mnangagwa lives his promise of cutting the distance that villagers walk to access the nearest health facility.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube recently told Parliament that the criteria used by Government in allocating devolution funds is in the process of being reviewed to ensure equitable distribution of resources.
Devolution was adopted as a key component of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe which promotes democratic participation in Government by all citizens and communities and “devolution of power and responsibilities to lower tiers of Government in Zimbabwe”.
Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs have been tasked with championing development programmes in their provinces.
The discharge of that mandate is being closely monitored by the Office of the President and Cabinet.