20 out of 900 health posts constructed, deadline expires
In 2020, President Lazarus Chakwera promised that his government would construct 900 health posts in the hard-to-reach areas as one way of achieving universal healthcare. In his State of the Nation Address then, Chakwera said the plan was to allow people access quality health care within a radius of five kilometres He said he had set out the plan to have the job…
In 2020, President Lazarus Chakwera promised that his government would construct 900 health posts in the hard-to-reach areas as one way of achieving universal healthcare.
In his State of the Nation Address then, Chakwera said the plan was to allow people access quality health care within a radius of five kilometres He said he had set out the plan to have the job done by 2022.
With the set deadline gone, we can report that government is yet to get to the quarter of what was promised.
This far, government has constructed only 20 health posts out of the promised 900.
In the first phase of the project, government had set to construct 55 health posts while construction of 145 health posts in the second phase was supposed to start in the previous financial year.
According to Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe, the Global Fund made available funds amounting to K4.5 billion to support the first phase of the project which was pegged at a cost of K12.8 billion.
“The deficit of K8.3 billion is expected to come from government as counterpart financing. So far 20 health posts out of the 55 health posts have been constructed,” he said.
Malawians continue to pay the price
In the absence of such health posts, back in the hard-to-reach areas, people are still suffering to get to hospitals which are many kilometers away.
In Chitipa, for example, people from Therere, Uledi, Kamphyongo, Vomo, Salala and Mchina areas still walk a distance of 20 kilometres to get to Nthalire Heath Centre.
This is the only facility close to their areas and for referrals, people travel a distance of over a 100 kilometres to access health care at Chitipa District Hospital.
Chitipa South Member of Parliament, Werani Chilenga, said no health post has been constructed in his area in the past three years.
“That’s the situation in my constituency. We are one of the worst hit. In terms of maternity services, women travel over 40 kilometres because currently it’s only Nthalire Health Centre where women are able to access maternal services,” he said.
Chilenga said however that the health centre is in a process of being turned into a rural hospital, courtesy of Press Corporation which has funded the project.
But that has brought about a negative effect because patients are now being referred to Chitipa District Hospital which is about 120 kilometres from Nthalire.
“The road is very bad. When we complain about these issues in Parliament we are told to go to the District Commissioners to present our issues,” Chilenga said.
Member of Parliament for Mangochi Central constituency Victoria Kingston also shared similar story. She said people in some parts of her area are travelling over 20 kilometres to access the Mangochi District Hospital.
She, too, said no health post has been constructed in her constituency in the past three years.
Government should explain
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), through its Executive Director George Jobe, has since asked the government to explain to Malawians what has gone wrong with the project.
“They should tell us. Is it that they were over ambitious to start the project? They should tell us what is going wrong.
“We also suggested to the government that it should just complete some health facility projects which were abandoned and not necessarily commence new projects. We were avoiding this,” he said.
Chairperson for Parliamentary Committee on Health Mathews Ngwale has expressed concern with what he has described as a promise which has proven difficult to fulfil.
“The 900 health posts were promised in the House and MPs were excited because the aim was to reduce the distance people travel to access health services. The number 900 was designed that everybody travels 5 kilometers or less.
“People are still travelling 15 kilometres and in some instances 20 kilometers to access a health facility. It was a promise but it is not happening in the majority of constituencies,” Ngwale said.