Abuse of Covid-19 Funds: A Case of a Pandemic in a Pandemic: August 2021 Monitoring Report on Access to Health

The August 2021 edition of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute’s Monitoring Report on Access to Health digs into the abuse and misuse of Covid-19 funds. The report demonstrates how this is an infringement of the right to health and points out the need of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to actively commence investigations. ZDI calls upon civil society organizations to intensify their watchdog role over Covid-19 resources as part of its recommendations. Read on to get more on this and other public health issues.

Introduction

The month of August 2021 saw the Auditor General’s latest special audit report on the financial management and utilization of public resources in combating the Covid-19 exposing gross embezzlement of funds. This proves to be a step backwards in the fight against the Covid- 19 pandemic. As Zimbabwe continues to take delivery of additional Covid-19 vaccines, the number of fully vaccinated people as of 22 August 2021 constituted 35.2% of people who can be fully vaccinated from the available vaccines while 64.8% of the people who can utilise the available vaccines are yet to be fully vaccinated. In terms of reaching targeted herd immunity, that is, fully vaccinating 10 million people (60% of the population), Zimbabwe has only reached 15% of the target as of 26 August 2021 (6 months after vaccination started). The achievement of herd immunity takes into account a number of factors in addition to availability of vaccines such as the availability of a well-motivated, well-remunerated and adequate healthcare staff, a well-coordinated logistical arrangement for the delivery of vaccines and other medical consumables across all vaccination centres in the country among others. The period under review was characterized by the continued spread of Covid-19 infections and deaths globally, regionally and locally. On 31 July 2021, Covid-19 infections in Zimbabwe stood at 108 860 and deaths were 3 532. From this date to 26 August 2021, Zimbabwe sustained a 13.8% increase in infection as it stood at 123 986 infections.

Abuse of Covid-19 funds: A case for a pandemic within a pandemic

As Zimbabwe still finds itself in the middle of a fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, cases of abuse, misuse and embezzlement of funds meant to finance the containment of the coronavirus continue to take centre stage. The recent Auditor General’s special report on the financial management and utilization of public resources in combating the Covid-19 in the country by ministries, government departments and agencies uncovered the abuse and misappropriation of over $890 million which was meant to fight Covid-19 in the country. This abuse of Covid-19 containment funds is a despicable infringement of the right to health and the right to life of the whole nation. It is gross misconduct that should be condemned with all possible gravity. There is need for concerted activism and citizen agency to put the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to task. In view of the prevailing precarious conditions in Zimbabwe’s public health sector stemming from inadequate funding, staff shortages, poor infrastructure and obsolete equipment, the USD961 million5 wind fall from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Zimbabwe, particular attention ought to be directed towards revamping the health sector.

Access to healthcare services in Zimbabwe: Ordinary men and women continue to face marginalisation

The constitution of Zimbabwe stipulates that the right to access to basic healthcare is everyone’s entitlement regardless of societal classes. However, in Zimbabwe quality healthcare services continue to be the preserve of the elite ruling class as the general public bears the brunt of the ever-dilapidating public health infrastructure. The government’s commitment of ZWL$269.5 million for the construction of a VVIP hospital at Manyame Airbase in Harare is yet another evidence of the continued neglect of public healthcare services by the government in favour of the elite. Referral public health centres in the county such as Sally Mugabe Central Hospital are in a sorry state as a result of abuse of resources intended for their refurbishment.

Conclusion

The period under review was marred with abuse of the pandemic funds as empirically uncovered by the Auditor General’s special report. There was also incoherent Covid-19 information dissemination communicated from different official sources that ought to be credible and reliable. Government’s commitment to construct a special healthcare facility meant to serve the elite only brings to question on the authorities’ political will to deliver Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 of ensuring good health and well- being for everyone.

Access the full monitoring report here (1MB PDF)

Source: Zimbabwe Democracy Institute

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