By Hassan Zaggi
Governments across Africa have been advised to work together to fund health care systems on the continent in order to attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
The Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, gave the advice at the opening of the Africa Health Agenda International Conference 2019 (Africa Health 2019) in Kigali, Rwanda.
“Investing in Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is one of the smartest investments a country can make.
“In the past two decades, African countries have displayed commendable leadership in furthering the UHC agenda across the continent. We must ensure that this movement is sustained through greater domestic investments in health care and that all ministries and stakeholders do their part,” Dr Gashumba said.
The conference, co-hosted by Amref Health Africa and Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, brought together over 1,200 participants from more than 35 countries, including health ministers, private sector leaders, civil society and representatives from multilateral organisations, to chart a roadmap to achieve UHC across Africa by 2030.
Speaking, the Group CEO at Amref Health Africa, Dr Githinji Gitahi, said: “Health is the most fundamental human right on which all other rights can be enjoyed. Universal Health Coverage is its guarantee.
“Globally, there is growing consensus on the need to universalise access to quality health care – both as a path to economic development and because it is the right thing to do.
“Going forward, we need to galvanise political will at the highest levels of government, mobilise greater resources to eliminate catastrophic health costs, and invest in community-led interventions.”
Speakers at the event highlighted the urgency of accelerating efforts to reach UHC in African countries, including the need for increased domestic financing and greater political prioritisation of UHC, as well as effective Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to share learnings, leverage innovative technologies and scale evidence-based, cost-effective solutions to improve health outcomes.
Many of the speakers noted Rwanda’s commitment to expanding health coverage through its near-universal health care system, as well as its investments in strengthening primary health care and the community health workforce, which have been instrumental in driving improvements in health outcomes and promoting health equity.
Rwanda has made impressive progress in the past two decades, and its nationwide community-based health insurance model covers nearly 90% of all Rwandans, including the poorest of the poor.
While significant progress has been made in the past two decades to improve access to quality health care across Africa, critical challenges remain.
Out-of-pocket expenditure has increased in nearly all countries, and the regional average has increased from $15 per capita in 1995 to $38 in 2014.
As a result, 11 million Africans are falling into poverty every year due to high out-of-pocket payments.
In 2001, through the Abuja Declaration, African governments had committed to increase their health spending to 15% of their annual budget; however, only six countries have achieved or surpassed the target.
The 3-day conference, from 5-7 March 2019, consists of scientific tracks, roundtables, interactive workshops, and high-level symposia on tuberculosis, malaria and health in fragile and conflict-affected states, among others.
In September 2019, the UN General Assembly will hold the first-ever UN High-Level Meeting on UHC. The General Assembly is expected to galvanise global commitment to UHC by voting on a historic political declaration in support of health for all.