In Zimbabwe, better clinics lead to better healthcare

Weighing the baby in the clinic
It’s all smiles as a nurse gives a clean bill of health to baby Sibusiso moments after the infant underwent regular check-up at the E.F Watson medical clinic in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Photo: Sammy Mwiti/UNDP

Ivy Chiyani, the sister-in-charge at the E.F Watson medical clinic in Zimbabwe, would like her patients to receive good healthcare -- but the limited physical space stymies her best efforts.

“We have just opened an opportunistic infections clinic and therefore we need more room to keep the antiretroviral drugs,” she says.

On this particular day, the clinic’s tiny waiting room is overwhelmed with eager patients. Pregnant mothers and children compete for attention with the elderly and the sick.

Highlights

  • A US $3.7 million capacity development programme is targeting 52 health facilities in Zimbabwe.
  • Since 2009, the Global Fund approved $830 million to support the fight in Zimbabwe against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
  • More than 18,000 critical health workers were supported through a retention scheme for improving the public health sector.

The E.F Watson clinic was established in 1958, just a few kilometres from the city centre of Bulawayo, about 400 kilometres southwest of the capital of Harare. It was meant to cater to a handful of patients, but five and half decades later, it attends to hundreds daily, including dozens of persons living with HIV-related illnesses.

“We receive about 200 patients daily, and with our limited space, this is a big challenge,” says Ms. Chiyani, adding that “the renovation of the clinic will greatly improve patient welfare and our challenging working environment.”

The E.F Watson medical clinic is currently being renovated thanks to UNDP-administered Global Fund grants. This renovation includes provision of a standard pharmaceutical storage room and ablution facilities, and is part of a US $3.7million capacity development package targeting 52 health facilities in Zimbabwe -- a country where about 15 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 are HIV positive, according to UNAIDs.

The situation is compounded by a severe “brain drain” of Zimbabwe’s healthcare professionals and the deterioration of its healthcare infrastructure.

Under the plan, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), UNDP and UNOPS (UN Office for Project Services) are collaborating to strengthen the supply-chain management system so quality health products are delivered in a timely manner to Zimbabweans seeking public healthcare.

“Capacity development in this programme is about making people, resources and systems work better together towards better health outcomes,” states Mr. Rasmus Jeppesen, a UNDP capacity development consultant. He added that this means new reporting skills, IT investments and a redesigned health information system will work together to improve disease surveillance data, and enable the health ministry to make better decisions.

At the health ministry, a key component of this initiative has been the introduction in 2013 of a new district health information system, thanks to support from the Global Fund, the Centres for Disease Control and the UNICEF-managed Health Transition Fund.

“The new system will ensure the availability of real-time data and information for decision-making, allowing the ministry to detect and respond to outbreaks or other health events early,” explains Dr. Ponesai Nyika, deputy director of Health Information System (HIS) in the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

Since 2009, when UNDP took over the management of the Global Fund Grants in Zimbabwe, about US $830 million has been approved to support the fight in Zimbabwe against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, leading to a decrease in the prevalence of these killer diseases.

Between 2010 and 2013, adults and children on ART rose from 69 percent to 84 percent. In addition, a total of 18,738 critical health workers, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory scientists and radiographers, were paid retention allowances, contributing to the attraction and retention of critical health workers in the public health sector.