Bishow Parajuli Correspondent
Over the years, HIV and AIDS as well as malaria have taken so much, from so many, and Zimbabwe saw a great loss of years in life expectancy in the 1990s. And since then, this country has fought back. It has taken nearly 20 years of grit and determination, wisdom and foresight, to climb back up and to attack this epidemic head-on.
We are now in a position to truly see an end to the epidemic. This is the time to act and act decisively. We have done much together, over the years, to break the yolk of silence, to do away with stigma and discrimination and to invest in the smart policy choices and investments in prevention, treatment and care that will transform the response.
And the results are beginning to show.
Zimbabwe stands among those countries that have stemmed the tide of new infections to some extent, with a drop of 26 percent in new infections. This is very good news.
Many more Zimbabweans are receiving the needed care and treatment.
Currently, over 740 000 adult and child Zimbabweans are receiving ARVs.
Likewise, mother to child transmission has reduced to 8 percent in 2013 from 18 percent in 2011. The incidence of malaria has dropped from 49 per 1000 persons in 2010 to 41 per 1000 persons in 2014. And we are pushing to do better. It has always been about leadership — political leadership and community leadership that has made the response to HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe a demonstration to so many others. The visit by our partners from Global Fund, European Commission, DFID and Gavi is another opportunity for this country to show case.
In this regard, I express, on behalf of UN agencies, our sincere gratitude to the Government of Zimbabwe for the political will, excellent leadership and for providing a working environment for all the partners to play their roles.
A very big thank you to all development partners for supporting the implementation of the Country’s successive National Strategic Plans on the delivery of health services to the people of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe receives one of the lowest per capita allocations globally from the combined funding of the two largest international funders (the Global Fund and PEPFAR).
The World Bank’s recent expenditure review found per capita development assistance for health in Zimbabwe in 2011 was well below that of neighbouring countries.
However, resources for the three diseases (HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria), and health systems generally have grown strongly over the past five years with funding coming from: Domestic financing through the National AIDS Trust Fund, international funding from bilateral sources, including the doubling of US Government funding under PEPFAR between 2012 and 2013 and its maintenance at these levels since, and Multi-lateral funding, especially through the Global Fund with grants averaging $145 million per annum under the new funding model for the three diseases.
Considering the epidemiological, economic and funding context of Zimbabwe, we need to strategise on how best to optimise program outcomes.
Zimbabwe has already recognised the need to diversify and expand the sources of funding for health generally and for HIV responses specifically to ensure sustainability.
During your mission, you will hear — or have already heard — of measures taken to maximise opportunities to diversify funding sources and increase domestic resource allocation. In going forward, we must also remember that we cannot simply treat ourselves out of this epidemic, especially if too reliant on international resources. It is high time we take a truly transformational leap that will change the course of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, so it brings an end to the pain and suffering it has wrought, often impacting future generations through mother-to-child transmission as well.
This would mean, we need to address some age-old behaviour patterns, practices that some say are the way things have always been done.
However, no country and no people need embrace practices that cause so many to suffer — so where things must change, leaders (such as here in Zimbabwe) have had the wisdom and the courage to say so, and have followed by lending their voice and modelling their behaviours so others may follow.
Bishow Parajuli is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Zimbabwe. He delivered the statement on Tuesday at a reception hosted by the Ministry of Health and Child Care to welcome a joint-team mission comprising the Global Fund, European Commission, Gavi and DFID.