Raise Health Sector Budget to Avoid Collapse - Experts Warn

Chairperson for Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance Gladys Ganda Chairperson for Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance Gladys Ganda

The Malawi government continues grappling to meet the Abuja declaration on allocation of 15 % of its national budget to health financing, 20 years after its adoption, a development experts describe as a signal of lack of commitment.

Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) expressed the concern at a 2023/2024 health budget analysis meeting with parliamentary committees of health, budget and finance including stakeholders in the sector on Wednesday in Lilongwe.

MHEN Board Chairperson Carolyn Kassam said though the government has increased the 2023/2024 budget allocation to the health sector to K330 billion from K251.7 billion which is about 8.5 %, it is not enough to address the challenges that the health sector is facing in the country.

“There are a lot of challenges; the recommendation for the government now is that we need to critically start thinking about health financing as an investment and also think of how to finance the budget from the revenue that we get locally and look at other revenue generation ways,” said Kassam.

MHEN has asked parliamentarians to lobby for equitable resource provision within the health sector vote, including adjustments of not less than k60 billion kwacha.

Chairperson for Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance Gladys Ganda said almost every sector is asking for an increase in their budget which is putting pressure on the government.

She admitted that the issues that MHEN raised are critical but resources are always limited and with the effects of Cyclone Freddy it will be difficult for the ministry of finance to consider raising the budgetary allocation.

Said Ganda, "As the budget and finance committee of parliament we have heard them and we will try to lobby with the ministry of finance, of course bearing in mind that we have challenges. As I speak, you are aware that there was Cyclone Freddy which has damaged a lot of infrastructure. Even the revenue that the government had planned to collect they might not be able to do so.”

On the other hand, Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Health Matthews Ngwale said the 8.5% health sector budget allocation is the lowest compared to previous years.

“Over the past two years, every time we budget for drugs in hospitals within six months our hospital directors complain that they have run out of drugs; it might be difficult to change the budget at this stage but as a committee we will take it up. We will try to launch a campaign to source funds for some projects, like the cancer center as we did with eye equipment,” he added.

Stakeholders in the health sector have expressed concern that the government's failure to put enough resources in the health sector could result in pressure on general health services as there will be a scramble for the few resources available.

This could cause unavailability of drugs and ambulances which will lead to preventable deaths and complications, they warn.

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