THE World Health Organisation (WHO) says it is intensifying efforts to work with the government of Zimbabwe in improving the country’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as well as ensuring that all people have access to quality health services.

This comes as statistics by WHO show that the country has only 46 percent of its needed specialists, with 20 percent of the trained medical doctors and 30 percent of nurses working abroad.

Between 2019 and 2020, the emigration of nurses increased by 44 percent and that of pharmacists by 68 percent, WHO stats further show.

In his remarks during the opening of the Methodology Workshop on Health Labour Market Analysis (HLMA) yesterday, WHO representative Alex Gasasira said while Zimbabwe had been consistent in its UHC performance, there was still room for improvement.

“Historically, Zimbabwe has consistently performed above the African average, with an increasing Universal Health Coverage index from 32 percent in 2000 to 55 percent currently.

“It is, however, becoming a concern to note that Zimbabwe’s pace of improvement is no longer as fast as we hoped for because Zimbabwe’s UHC index has remained around 55 percent since 2015,” Gasasira said.

He said the recent global UHC monitoring report by WHO and the World Bank showed progress, but warned of a risk of slowing down the pace of improvement which was worsened by the  Covid-19 pandemic.

Gasasira said although the Health Service Board and the ministry of Health recently reviewed the National Human Resources for Health (HRH, laying a clear policy direction towards having an adequate, well-trained and motivated health workforce for the establishment of the respirators of the national health strategy was important.

“What is needed now is an evidence-informed implementation of the policy led by the government and mutually supported by all stakeholders to realise the full tenets of the new policy.

“For example, health workers shortage is compounded by pandemic driven demand for health workers in the high income countries that has fuelled the out migration of health workers from Africa in which Zimbabwe has faced a disproportionate share.

“For Zimbabwe’s health systems to fully recover from the adverse impact of the pandemic and to adequately deliver on the promise of UHC, there is an urgent need for a renewed focus on the health workforce,” Gasarira said.

He said it was important to renew commitment in investing in the health workforce as it has an enormous return on that investment.

“It is in this spirit that WHO is slowly supporting the government in collaboration with other partners to use the HLMA to generate evidence to inform the development of a new HRH strategy and sustainable investment plan to address some of the longstanding challenges such as the shortage of health workers,” Gasasira said.