The Daily Times
BY CHARLES MPAKA
16:12:37 - 28 July 2008
Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) says the health sector remains dogged with systemic problems although strides have been made in some areas to address Malawi’s health concerns.
MHEN National Coordinator Martha Kwataine told The Daily Times last week that not much has been done in the country to promote health seeking behaviour among the citizens.
“We still keep sick people at home until they are critically ill. That is when we take them to hospital,’’ she said.
She observed that there had been inadequate investment in health education to instil good health values in Malawians.
Kwataine applauded government for increases in budgetary allocation to Ministry of Health over the years.
She felt, however, that the adjustments were still deficient to correspond with disease trends and inflationary changes.
MHEN also said political will was still falling short, as signified by the under spending in the sector in the past two years.
“It does not portray commitment towards improving service delivery in health sector where a ministry is under spending and yet there is evidence of frequent drug stock outs in health facilities and slow infrastructure development.”
The organisation blamed this on bureaucracy and the need to honour donor community pledges.
“May be, over reliance on donors needs to be critically looked at,” said the MHEN coordinator.
Forty percent of Malawi’s national budget is supported by donor partners.
On migration of health personnel, Kwataine said it was not just money that could keep staff in the country, adding good housing, water, electricity, accessible roads and an improved communication was also very critical.
Minister of Health Khumbo Kachali told the nation last week on MBC that the tide of health staff fleeing the country has considerably subsided in recent years.
According to the minister, between 1999 and 2004, about 500 medical staff left the country but between 2005 and to date, only about 30 have migrated.
Kachali attributed this to improved salaries and conditions of service.
On climate change, one key crucial factor on health, MHEN said the sector needed to help more in educating people on the connection between climate change and diseases. That is apart from ensuring proper disposal of waste from hospitals.
“The health sector is on the receiving end as it deals with diseases and illnesses resulting from effects of climate change. We need to continue playing our role of educating people on the link between disease prevalence and climate change and the role communities can play.”
The 2007/08 human development report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says the greatest health impacts of climate change would be experienced in developing countries due to high levels of poverty and limited capacity of public health system.
It said: “Droughts and floods [consequences of climate change] are often catalysts for wide ranging health problems, including an increase in diarrhoea in children, cholera and skin problems.”
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