By CHUSA SICHONE -
HEALTH Minister Chitalu Chilufya has disclosed that there are currently 400 children waiting to be evacuated abroad for specialist medical treatment.
The children are awaiting evacuation for the treatment of cardiac, renal and neurosurgical problems.
Dr Chilufya said this in Lusaka when he witnessed the signing of a US$100 million financing agreement between the Government and the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) for the construction of the 800-bed capacity King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Specialised Hospital on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Felix Mutati signed on behalf of the Government while SFD was represented by its vice-chairperson Yousef Al-Bassam.
Saudi Export Programme director general Ahmed Al-Ghannam and Development Bank of Zambia managing director Jacob Lushinga also signed a $5 million-worth export credit support agreement thereafter.
Dr Chilufya said the Government usually sent children requiring specialist treatment to India at a huge cost because Zambia had an infrastructure deficit to offer reproductive and child health services.
“With the completion of this facility, we will be able to handle all those cases (cardiac, renal and neurosurgical) locally. We currently have 400 children waiting to be sent abroad for these services, so this is a significant investment in the health of our children,” Dr Chilufya said.
Dr Chilufya said reproductive and child health services remained the Government’s top priority but that inadequate infrastructure continued being the main bottleneck in the provision of such services adequately.
The Government in its National Health Strategic Plan targets to reduce maternal mortality from the current 398 to less than 100 per 100,000 live births and under-five mortality from 75 to less than 45 per 1,000.
Dr Chilufya said the King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Specialised Hospital, which would be constructed within three years, would also enable Zambia attract and enhance medical tourists and strengthen human capital development.
The hospital would enable specialists to be trained locally and for the region and that was why Dr Chilufya was confident that the facility was a high impact investment in health, with potential to strengthen Zambia’s health systems.
Mr Mutati said Zambia and Saudi Arabia have had critical bilateral cooperation for some time in areas such as health, road, agriculture and energy sectors and that the relationship between the two countries was reinvigorated in 2016 when President Edgar Lungu met King Abdulaziz.
Mr Mutati said, therefore, that the financing agreement endorsed the engagement that President Lungu and King Abdulaziz had and that Zambia was grateful for the continued support from Saudi Arabia and that more engagements on a number of projects would continue going forward.
Engineer Al-Bassam said the signing of the agreement was an indication of the fruitful and cordial cooperation that existed between Zambia and Saudi Arabia, and he was hopeful that it would help the Government achieve its health targets and contribute to socio-economic development.