The government has pronounced an ambitious and attractive initiative that will see the realisation of universal health coverage in the country.

Speaking during the country’s belated World Health Day commemorations in Harare this Friday, Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Obediah Moyo said universal health coverage in Zimbabwe is going to be a reality as a result of the creation of a national health insurance scheme, which has already taken shape.

“The initial team working with consultants has already done its initial investigations and come up with a document and as per recommendations, we have set up a special steering committee, so by January next, we want to see that national health insurance scheme taking off and everybody being able to access health services through the facility. So, universal health coverage in Zimbabwe is going to be a reality as a result of the creation of a national health insurance,” said Dr Moyo.

The Minister clarified that the new health scheme does not mean the demise of medical aid schemes, but the focus would be to cater for the bulk of Zimbabweans disenfranchised by the deterrent and exorbitant monthly premiums charged by the medical societies.

“The existing schemes, the medical aid societies will also play a critical role because they cater for people who are able to access health services at a higher level and we are now looking at the general population, 76 % of our population, which is rural based and we want them to be able to benefit,” he said.

Dr Moyo shared the government’s dream on how the national health insurance scheme will operate and the expected results.

“We want our people to be able to access health care services at the lowest level. In the villages, we must have well established primary health care facilities like village posts manned by qualified staff, registered general and primary health care nurses and with district medical officers coming to those facilities on a continuous basis. We want people to then be referred to the next level, the rural health care centre, which is an integrated service where there is a laboratory……and radiology services. Those rural health care centres should be manned by clinical officers, while our district and provincial levels would be manned by specialists. The national/tertiary level is whereby complicated cases are handled,” he said.

“So in doing all this, we want to make sure that people access health care services, without having to pay and that is where universal health coverage comes in. By universal health coverage, we are looking at the national health insurance scheme, we have already started on the national health insurance scheme, our plans are well advanced now, we are working together with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. This has been on the ground for the next 15 years and we want to have the national health insurance scheme established so that we are able to provide universal health coverage,” the Minister added.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Alex Gasasira hailed the country’s progress especially in the fight against HIV and Tuberculosis, but said a lot still needs to be need for Zimbabwe to comply with the Abuja Declaration.

“Zimbabwe has one of the highest vaccination coverage [in the region]. It has done very well in terms of HIV and TB. Of course there are still challenges but there are areas the country can build on. In terms of financing, of course health care costs much, Zimbabwe has not yet achieved the Abuja Declaration which requires nations to allocate 15% of their national budgets towards health. We are encouraged that the Transitional Stabilisation Programme has special emphasis on increasing coverage, increasing the quality of care and we hope that we can build on that,” he said.

This year’s World Health Day commemorations are running under the theme: ‘Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere.’