The Herald, 5 September 1980
ZIMBABWE’S health services must make a drastic change of emphasis from urban hospitals to village-based primary health care, the Minister of Health Dr Herbert Ushewokunze told the Senate.
He said in the past, the service had stressed curative rather than preventive medicine and had concentrated on the needs of a limited proportion of the population.
“As a result, resources for health have been distributed in inverse proportion in relation to the health needs of the majority.”
The minister said it was argued in the past that funds should not be diverted into health improvement for the masses because this would mean increased population growth without commensurate economic growth.
Introducing a take note motion on the Government’s health policy, Dr Ushewokunze said it was Government’s policy to “disperse the benefits of development in order to bring a better quality of life to the majority of our people.”
The concept of primary health care, as developed by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund, aimed to provide low cost basic health care improvement at village level.
It was essential to understand that this concept would be the whole basis of Zimbabwe’s health service, the Minister said.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
Health service is a basic human right that must be availed to everyone regardless of social standing. There must be no discrimination when it comes to health provision.
During the colonial era, there was a deliberate policy to deny the marginalised population in the rural areas health service by not availing healthcare facilities and funding. The few mission hospitals dotted around the country, covered the gap.
After independence in 1980, Government made it a policy that everyone must have access to primary health care. Clinics and hospitals were built in rural areas
There are dangers that the gains achieved during the first few decades might be eroded due to the imposition of illegal sanctions, which have seen little capital injection to transform the health sector to 21st Century standards.
Health challenges such as cancer, HIV and Aids, diabetes, water borne diseases and now Covid-19 also require money and expertise.
Dr Ushewokunze, one of the founding members of the Zimbabwe African National Union, was the first Minister of Health in 1980. He died on December 10, 1995 and is interred at the National Heroes Acre.
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