Govt to increase funding for sexual reproductive health Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora (second from left), UNFPA representative in Zimbabwe Miranda Tabifor (second from right), Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Sleiman Timios Kwidini (left) and Head of Cooperation of the European Union in Zimbabwe Franck Porte (right) during the official launch of the 2024 State of the World Population Report in Harare recently. — Picture: Memory Mangombe.

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke-Senior Health Reporter

Government has pledged to increase domestic funding to ensure effective and accelerated progress towards the provision of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for all.

While the country has made significant strides in the past decade, inequalities continue to disadvantage many women and girls.

This was revealed in the findings from the 2024 State of the World Population Report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which showed that over 70 percent maternal deaths are still being recorded in sub-Saharan Africa.

Speaking at the launch of the report on Monday, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora emphasised the need for a significant shift towards comprehensive, accessible SRHR services for all.

“To ensure that the next 30 years of progress includes everyone, we must pivot towards providing comprehensive, universal and inclusive sexual and reproductive health care and guaranteeing rights for all, regardless of their background,” he said.

“This means designing tailored and targeted health programmes that address the multiple ways economic, social, political and environmental injustice impact people’s health and rights. 

“It also means moving beyond measuring human experiences in broad averages and committing to the collection of disaggregated data across a variety of factors.”

He said the Government had already committed funds from the National Budget to support areas such as the procurement of contraceptives, pledging to explore more innovative financing mechanisms to ensure full, effective and accelerated implementation of the ICPD programme of action.

Government invested US$3 million between 2022 and 2023 towards contraceptives, making Zimbabwe the first country under the UNFPA Supplies Global Partnership to receive match funding to complement the investment in family planning.

Minister Mombeshora acknowledged that the country still had some unfinished business that included a high rate of adolescent pregnancy, among others.

He said investment in education, health, social development and promotion of youth engagement in relevant development and economic issues was paramount.

The SWOP report showed that despite many global gains in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) over the last 30 years, many women and girls in marginalised communities still struggle to access SRHR.

Entitled “Interwoven Lives, Threads of Hope: Ending inequalities in sexual and reproductive health and rights”, the report highlights the role racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination continue to play in blocking broad gains in SRH for women and girls.

It also highlights that women and girls who are poor, belong to ethnic, racial and indigenous minority groups, or are trapped in conflict settings, are more likely to die because they lack access to timely health care.

UNFPA country representative Ms Miranda Tabifor said there was more to be done to address the disparities highlighted in the report.

“In the space of a generation, we have reduced the unintended pregnancy rate by nearly one fifth, lowered the maternal death rate by one third, and secured laws against domestic violence in more than 160 countries. Despite this progress, inequalities within our societies and health systems are widening, and we have not adequately prioritised reaching those furthest behind. Our work is incomplete but not impossible with sustained investment and global solidarity,” she said.

European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Jobst von Kirchmann, who was represented by Head of Cooperation Mr Franck Porte acknowledged Government’s efforts to invest in SRHR.

“We acknowledge the Government of Zimbabwe’s domestic investments in procuring contraceptives, leading to one of the highest modern contraceptive prevalence rates in Africa. 

“This, along with the training of health workers and new friendly services, demonstrates Zimbabwe’s dedication to protecting women and girls.

“While we celebrate our achievements, we acknowledge that there is still much work to be done. The health sector faces underfunding and a workforce crisis. 

“Gender inequalities did hinder access to health or HR services for some women and girls. The EU reaffirms its commitment to support Zimbabwe and its people along this journey, through ongoing and future assistance, working hand-in-hand to build a more inclusive society.”

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