Ministry of Health has admitted that the construction of 900 health posts in hard-to-reach areas in the country is a tall order.
Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda in December last year said government was targeting to construct 900 health posts in rural areas by 2022 to reduce travel distances to access health service.
But when asked on the status of the project which will see each health post costing about K180 million, translating to K162 billion, the ministry’s spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said they have not started as they are conducting final assessments.
He said there are about 5 000 areas which need health posts to ensure that people are accessing healthcare service within a radius of five kilometres (km), but government selected 900 most critical areas for the exercise.
However, Chikumbe’s sentiments on the project’s timeframe, contradicts Chiponda’s earlier statement.
He said: “We may not have resources to construct 5 000 health facilities.
“Of course it’s a tall order [to construct 900 health posts], but we are just estimating that it should be over 100 per year.”
Chikumbe said the project will start with 50 health posts this year because Global Fund has committed the resources for facilitates which will have a five-roomed structure and three staff houses to be occupied by two health surveillance assistants and a nurse.
He added that government is in talks with other bilateral donors and the local private sector to support the project.
The initiative comes against a background of some abandoned projects such as Nancholi in Blantyre and Kanyenga in Mangochi where patients around the areas travel about 28km to access health services.
Reacting to the project, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe welcomed it, but doubted if it will be implemented within the set period.
He asked government to clearly indicate the actual number of health posts to be constructed in a specific year, for easy monitoring.
Said Jobe: “Such information is important because we will be able to project a number of facilities to be completed.
“However, it will be a tall order because with other competing priorities, we may find ourselves not meeting the target.”
The 2017-2022 Nation Community Health Strategy, called Integrating Health Service and Engaging Communities for the Next Generation, states that by next year, 900 health posts should be operational and supporting integrated community health service delivery in hard-to-reach areas.
In his State of the Nation Address in May this year, President Lazarus Chakwera said the Tonse Alliance Administration is committed to ensuring that there is a health service in every five-km radius.
He said: “For this to happen, we intend to pursue the ambition I set a year ago to construct 900 health posts and staff accommodation in hard-to-reach areas by the year 2022.”