The World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) has kicked off in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay.
Zimbabwe’s Health and Child Care Minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa told delegates attending the conference that Zimbabwe has put in place various measures to reduce the number of people succumbing to NCD related deaths by tapping into funds mobilised under the National AIDS Trust Fund and the National Health Levy.
President Robert Mugabe is among other world leaders who are attending the conference which is expected to find low cost solutions to reduce the number of people dying from preventable non communicable diseases.
The global conference being held at the Mercusor Building in Montevideo was officially opened by the President of Uruguay, Dr Tabare Vazquez.
Minister Parirenyatwa said many African countries are grappling with NCDs and countries need to ensure that communities get involved in reducing NCD related deaths.
“Fighting NCDs requires huge funding and what we [as Zimbabwe] have been able to do is to put up a levy, an AIDS levy, where we take three percent of the taxable income of every worker. We put it into an AIDS levy but we know that AIDS is very related now to cancers so we are now using that AIDS levy also for cancers especially for drug treatment and diagnostics,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
The Aids Levy was introduced by Government in 2000 to provide financial support for key HIV and AIDS intervention programmes.
The levy is also funding the National AIDS Council (NAC) Secretariat functions and complementing donor funding on the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Dr Parirenyatwa said the country had also put in place a Health Fund to help mobilise resources to fight NCDs.
“We have also gone further to put up a Health Fund where we take 0.5 percent of all the airtime and we are encouraging people to make calls because we are getting money from that and we are putting that money into fighting NCDs, among other areas,” he said.
“I am going to make sure that people now know what are NCDs in the communities and put an agenda of prevention. Anything we do whether it is HIV, cancer or diabetes – prevention must come top. Prevention will be a big agenda. We must look at the challenges that we have and put up pulled funding, political awareness and political commitment.”
Dr Parirenyatwa also told delegates that he was going to brief Cabinet and Parliament on lessons learnt at the conference on fighting NCDs.
The Health Fund was introduced by the then Finance Minister, Cde Patrick Chinamasa when he presented the 2017 National Budget and took effect in January this year.
The fund, which is raising about $4,2 million every month under the ‘Talk, Surf and Save a Life’ initiative is expected to reduce dependence by government on donors whose aid comes with conditions.
According to the Zimbabwe Cancer Registry, about 7000 Zimbabweans are diagnosed with cancer annually while some cases are going unreported due to cultural beliefs associated with the disease by some people.
Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Walter Mzembi noted that NCDs are missing on the global development agenda and the presence of world leaders like President Mugabe at the conference will boost funding of NCDs globally.
WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on member states to commit to fighting NCDs and stop avoidable deaths.
Heads of state and government will attend a high level segment for WHO member states and UN organisations later this Wednesday.