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Civil Society Organisations damn health sector budget cuts

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Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have accused government of persistently failing to fulfill its obligation of making sure the health sector is adequately funded in the national budget.

Malawi is a signatory of the Abuja Declaration 2001 which compels government to allocate at least 15 percent of resources in its financial blueprint towards health sector interventions but the health sector is seldom adequately funded.

According to the CSOs, which include Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Manet+, and Sex Workers Alliance, Malawi’s failure to meet its financial obligations has had devastating impacts on the country’s public health system, with service delivery at historic lows.

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Addressing the press in Lilongwe on Wednesday, leaders of the organisations argued that the low allocations to the health sector have resulted into widespread drug stock-outs in public hospitals while medical equipment is poor.

Manet+ Executive Director, Safari Mbewe, read out a joint statement which, among others, observed that the country’s fast growing population also means the low health sector budget allocation is under grave threat.

“Health spending as a percentage of total expenditure is much lower than five years ago and, if left unchecked, this downward trend could push the health sector out of government’s priority list.

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“The fall in per capital health spending is even more alarming now, getting worse each year while that of HIV and Aids remains uncertain, difficult to trace owing to reforms that have moved HIV activities to the Ministry of Health from the Office of the President and Cabinet ,” the statement says.

In an interview after the briefing, Cedep Executive Director, Gift Trapence, said the country has enough domestic resources to finance the health sector optimally as long as there is political will.

“There are huge taxes that Malawians are being charged and we believe these can help finance the health sector so that we adhere to our local and international obligations,” Trapence said.

He added that the recent passing of the Access to Information Bill would help CSOs in tracking utilisation of allocations so that any sort of abuse or misuse is exposed.

During the June budget meeting, some Members of Parliament led by chairperson of the Health Committee, Julian Lunguzi, fought in vain to have the health sector budget increased.

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