The Ministry of Finance has signed a K400 million agreement with the Japanese government to upgrade health centres into First Level Hospitals in Zambia.

Some of the health centres targeted are Chawama, Kanyama and Chipata Health Centre in Lusaka.

During the signing ceremony today, Minister of Finance Felix Mutati said the upgrade of the hospitals would also foster economic development.

“We are focusing on decongesting health facilities in the country, taking good health facilities as closer to the people as possible. We shall continue as government to focus on primary health care because that is key to national development,” Mutati said.

“And we have provided in this year’s [2017] budget that there will be two sectors, which is health and education where we have allowed additional employment of health workers and the primary objective is to improve the health workers to patients ratio because we believe that unless you have a strong health system, it’s going to affect economic development and the management of economic fundamentals articulated in the Zambia plus programme.”

And Japanese Ambassador to Zambia Hidenobu Sobashima, who signed on behalf of the Japanese government, pledged his country’s continued support in improving the health sector in Zambia.

“The government of Japan will continue assisting Zambia in constructing hospitals and providing other health facilities including giving technical support and capacity building vis-a-vis medical equipment,” said Ambassador Sobashima.

“As a country, we believe that for Zambia to continue to achieve development in a sustainable manner, there is need to strengthen the health sector which is key among other things. Therefore, the government of Japan intends to contribute to this process in corporation with its stakeholders in various phases, including promoting further introduction of high quality medical equipment in Zambia.”

Meanwhile, Ministry of Health Spokesperson Dr Kennedy Malama says the upgrade of local clinics into first level hospitals will improve on the delivery of health care in the country.

“As a sector, we are delighted that our quest to strengthen primary health care services as a conduit to achieving universal health coverage is bearing fruit. We commend the Japanese government for this unwavering support. The upgrade of these clinics will include construction of outpatient and inpatient departments among other works,” said Dr Malama.