Sanctions affect health sector: Minister Obadiah Moyo

Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter

Illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries must be removed as they are not targeted but are affecting ordinary people, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo has said.

In an interview ahead of the inaugural anti-sanctions day set for October 25, Dr Moyo said the health sector suffered the worst as service delivery to “ordinary” patients was compromised.

“It was indicated that the sanctions were targeted but they were not really targeted because they affected the rest of the community especially in hospitals. We did not have any medicines, we did not have any laboratory reagents, the X-rays were non-functional, all equipment which was obsolete, we could not replace it so it was very difficult,” said Dr Moyo, in reference to the immediate period following imposition of the sanctions.

Dr Moyo said local pharmaceutical companies that needed to borrow money from foreign banks could not do so as they were considered high risk, thereby impacting on availability of affordable medicines on the market.

“Whenever we wanted to access foreign currency through the banks we could not find it and at the same time the companies, which would normally bring medicines for us in the country could not get any loans from outside Zimbabwe because they were also considered a high risk, so they could not get all the supplies which we required to use in our hospitals,” he said.

He described the situation then as “pathetic”, saying it was difficult to assist most of the patients who came in for essential services.

Dr Moyo, who was the chief executive officer of Chitungwiza Central Hospital, said it only took innovativeness to salvage the health sector from the challenges it was faced with.

“If it wasn’t for our innovativeness at Chitungwiza Central Hospital we would have lost many more lives but due to the innovativeness that we carried out by engaging in joint venture partnerships with the corporates, we managed to survive, otherwise it was a difficult situation. A time when you had to really think outside the box and be able to deliver,” he said.

He, however, said because Chitungwiza Central Hospital was the only institution that was offering full services, the institution also ended up having to deal with overwhelming number of patients.

Dr Moyo said most challenges facing the sector today could be attributable to existence of the illegal sanctions.

The health sector is facing a number of challenges, chief among them interrupted supply of essential medicines and obsolete equipment.

In the years 1980-1999, the foreign currency content of the ministry’s budget was met largely by the balance of payments support facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), amounting to US$200-500 million per annum.

Because of Zimbabwe’s Land Reform Programme, the IMF, WB and the AfDB suspended the balance of payments support under Sections 4 (a) and 4(d)-(2) (1) of the Zidera sanctions in 2000, and 2001.

Since 2000, Zimbabwe has had a critical shortage of essential drugs.

Hospitals, both private and public, now have decrepit and outmoded radiological, laboratory and theatre equipment because of sanctions.

SADC declared October 25 as a solidarity day against sanctions by all member states and resolved to conduct a number of activities in their respective countries calling for their immediate removal.

The Western sanctions are not backed by the UN General Assembly or Security Council resolutions, and are therefore illegal under international law.

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