Health sector crisis



17 February 2017

How much blood can you buy for US$13 billion?

Dear Family and Friends

For the last couple of months high up in the branches of the Musasa trees in and around my garden a Goshawk has been rearing her chick. It’s been a noisy affair that has dominated the area and left most other birds well and truly intimidated and keeping out of sight.

Regardless of the wind, rain or fierce lightning storms, the Goshawks haven’t missed a day: whistling, calling and screeching. The youngster has a seemingly insatiable appetite and screeches again and again for more. From one particular Musasa tree with a good vantage the mother and chick have launched their daily attacks, dropping and pouncing on anything that moves. When that same Musasa tree took a direct lightning strike recently and shed all its leaves, suddenly everything changed and the predators became easily visible to all below.

The predator in my garden feels very much like life in Zimbabwe in 2017; we are rapidly returning to the conditions of 2008 but this time we can see clearly and no one is fooled as to who is to blame for the economic crisis. It’s almost a year ago to the day that President Mugabe admitted in an interview to mark his 92nd birthday that US$13 billion worth of diamond revenue had gone missing.

President Mugabe turns 93 in four days time and in the past year, since his damning revelation about the missing US$13 billion, not a single dollar has been found or a single person held to account.

It’s like the Musasa tree hit by lightning in my garden: there’s nowhere to hide anymore and no one else to blame: not white Zimbabweans, not farmers, not opposition parties, not sanctions and not the West. Everyone knows why we’ve run out of money and who is to blame.

2017 has started with a serious crisis unfolding in the country’s health sector. Essential drugs for chronic and non-communicable illnesses are in short supply. This is because these drugs are imported and hospitals are unable to access US dollars to import them.

Private pharmacies are having the same problems accessing their own US dollars from their own bank accounts to buy stock to resupply their businesses. Strange you say; why are there no US dollars to import critical drugs and yet so many of our leaders were able to access US dollars to spend a month out of the country over Christmas?

The crisis is much bigger than just drugs. Government doctors have just gone on strike asking for better working conditions and better pay. Imagine being the doctor on call and you only get paid US$1.20 per hour. That’s just downright insulting. You could earn more than that by standing outside the hospital gates and selling bananas.

Doctors who embarked on the strike were then told by the Minister of Health that if they didn’t return to work they would be fired. Hmmm, 5-7 years of training to end up being fired for asking for more than $1.20 an hour, that doesn’t make much sense. To put the doctors’ request in context, consider this:  an electrician or IT specialist in Zimbabwe charges anywhere between $20 and $30 an hour.

The health sector crisis is not only about drugs and doctors in Zimbabwe it’s about us, the ordinary people. If you don’t have money or medical insurance, which most Zimbabweans don’t have, it’s literally a matter of life and death if you get sick. You have to pay $100 deposit to be admitted to hospital and then you have to buy and/or pay for everything that is needed to save your life:

needles, syringes, cannulas, scans, tests, X rays, drugs and blood.  

Blood is the biggest horror of all: $130 a pint; that’s a death sentence in a country where 90% of people are unemployed. Then you’ve got the consultants fees, the anaesthetist’s fees, the daily hospital bed fees, the oxygen fees and so it goes on and on.

Similar crises are underway in almost all sectors of life in Zimbabwe, in both government and private enterprise with many not knowing how to survive another month. While the economy and country unravels, unbelievably ZBC TV last night flighted an advert calling for donations for President Mugabe’s 93rd birthday party. Organisers are looking for US$2.5 million! That’s enough to buy over 19,230 pints of blood;  imagine how many pints of blood you can buy for US$13 billion!

Until next time, thanks for reading

Love Cathy

17th February 2017

Copyright   Cathy Buckle.

For information on my new book, “RUNDI,” about hand rearing baby elephants in the mid 1980’s , or my other books about life in Zimbabwe: “SLEEPING LIKE A HARE,” “MILLIONS, BILLIONS, TRILLIONS,” “CAN YOU HEAR THE DRUMS,” “INNOCENT VICTIMS” “AFRICAN TEARS”, “BEYOND TEARS” and “IMIRE,” or to subscribe/unsubscribe to this letter, please visit my website or contact (To see pictures of images described in this and other letters go to: