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from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls
VICTORIA FALLS – ZIMBABWE has in recent years suffered the ignominy of its elite dying in neighbouring countries and abroad as its once-thriving health sector breaks down.

Now, the government wants to see these roles reversed, by attracting citizens from other countries to seek treatment in Zimbabwe.

The administration has pledged to resuscitate the sector back to its heyday at independence in order to attract patients from around the world to seek medical treatment in the Southern African country.

Zimbabwe aims to leverage on latest gains it made in the prevention and vaccination programmes against COVID-19.

Despite its health sector in crisis after years of poor administration and governance, corruption and economic downturn, it defied the odds and has been lauded for its response to the pandemic.

This culminated in individuals from neighbouring countries crossing to Zimbabwe to get vaccinated.

Among those are citizens from South Africa, whose health sector is comparatively robust and the country is alongside India the most popular estimations for medical tourism.

Victoria Falls, the resort city, was arguably the first city in Africa to achieve herd immunity. There are plans to construct a medical facility in the city to cater for visiting tourists.

“What is pleasing is that we have achieved 100 percent (immunity) here. Why not initiate health tourism here in Victoria Falls?” quipped Vice President Costantino Chiwenga who is also Health and Child Care Minister.

He was directing his sentiments to the Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ).

Chiwenga said Zimbabwe has potential to reclaim its former status as a net exporter of health services in the region.

“If we rebuild, we envisage quality services in public sector facilities that should position Zimbabwe as a preferred destination of healthcare services, which is inbound medical tourism,” Chiwenga said.

He reminisced Zimbabwe at independence had a thriving, internationally-lauded health services sector.

“You recall that this country used to treat people coming from other countries,” he said.

The health sector is a shadow of its former self with thousands of medical personnel leaving for greener pastures, the remaining ones almost always on strike and insufficient medicines.

However, Chiwenga is upbeat.

“We still have excellent healthcare skills servicing both public and private institutions. Therefore, renovating and re-equipping must be expedited as the panacea to resuscitate medical tourism,” he said.

Chiwenga said the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa supported public-private-partnerships.

Shylet Sanyanga, the AHFoZ chief executive, appealed for the upgrading of infrastructure and that government ensured quality, affordable services.

“We have been the loudest in lobbying that patients shouldn’t be going elsewhere for treatment. We have good skills and can use that to prevent foreign currency flight,” she said.

A significant number of Zimbabweans have travelled mostly to South Africa for medical attention.

Politicians- at times at the expense of the taxpayer- and wealthy citizens fly abroad.

Ironically, Chiwenga is among them.

Former Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, died of colorectal cancer in a South African hospital in 2018.

Robert Mugabe, president between 1980 and 2017, died from advanced cancer in a Singapore facility in 2019.

– CAJ News