Funding Delays Hurting Health Programs

Nearly halfway through 2004, the Ministry of Health has re­ceived only 5 percent of this year’s budget from the Ministry of Finance, a delay that health officials said Wednesday is crippling key programs in some of the country’s poorest areas.

Through the end of May, the Ministry spent about $2.8 million of its $56.75 million budget, ac­cording to figures from the Min­istry of Health. Salaries, which average about $30 per month, have been paid on time, said Health Minister Hong Sun Huot Wednesday. What has suffered is the activity budget, of which only 8 percent has been used so far.

“If we get the money, we spend. If no money, how can we spend?” said a finance official at the Health Ministry who asked not to be named.

Shortage and irregular cash flow from the Finance Ministry is a consistent budgetary problem at the ministry, according to a 2004 report prepared by the health ministry’s department of budget and finance.

The Health Ministry spent only 52 percent of its 2003 budget for national programs, and is still repaying the cost of drugs purchased that year, Hong Sun Huot said. The minister directed questions on the reasons for the delay to the Finance Ministry.

Asked Wednesday about cash flow problems at the Health Ministry, Finance Minister Keat Chhon said only, “you have the wrong figures.” He declined to speak further.

With little money trickling into the provinces, outreach efforts for programs like immunizations have slowed dramatically, Hong Sun Huot said.

Health center staff have been relying on their own transportation to immunize children in re­mote areas, said National Im­munization Program manager Sann Chan Soeung. With the cost of gasoline increasing, staffers are less able to pay for fuel, he said.

, and immunization efforts this year have been largely funded by an NGO. “If we go to the field, we need money,” he said.


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