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Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
October 01, 2010
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It has unfortunately
become routine to say that corruption is a curse for developing
countries on their way out of poverty. Corruption diverts highly
needed public monies from their initial use into private hands,
leads to inefficient public investment, and causes a lack of private
investment. Corruption in the health sector is probably one of the
most detrimental faces of the problem because life is directly at
stake. If treatment is made conditional to corrupt practices, it
could well be that the lives of those who cannot afford paying bribes
will be endangered. In the case of HIV/AIDS, the danger is even
higher, as there is no cure for the disease, despite the mitigation
effect of antiretroviral treatments. This issue is even more pressing
in a country like Zimbabwe - one of the countries affected the most
by the pandemic.
This is why
a study like this is extremely important, both from a health perspective,
and a governance perspective. Various corruption practices have
been found in the interaction between people living with HIV/ AIDS
and hospital personnel. Results are shocking: the majority of respondents
of the survey acknowledge being forced to pay bribes, either to
be enrolled in the treatment scheme, or to receive ARVs. The mere
fact that 10% of the patients who refuse to pay bribes are being
taken care of is an encouraging sign in this dark picture.
shown in this study definitely call for action. One can argue that
informal payments are being solicited as a livelihood strategy by
poorly paid health personnel. This certainly holds true to a large
extent. However this assumption does not prevent a government from
taking action within a health sector reform process.
is needed in order to allocate existing resources more efficiently,
to possibly increase the share of the health budget in the total
state budget, and eventually to pay better salaries.
mechanisms must be put in place and monitored; ethics training must
become part of the health curriculum and jobs terms of references.
At the other
end of the spectrum, civic action and human rights advocacy groups
can hold the authorities and the health staff accountable for their
results and practices. By repeating the urgency of the situation,
civil society organisations can certainly help in moving the anticorruption
agenda within the health sector forward and make people more aware
of the serious consequences on health of governance deficiencies.
To that end, well-researched and grounded work, such as what has
been produced here by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, is
needed. Hard facts, as those presented here, widely distributed
among the health community, will hopefully create momentum for changing
mindsets and practices.
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