Without fanfare,Tanzania marks International Universal Health coverage

14Dec 2018
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Without fanfare,Tanzania marks International Universal Health coverage

ACTIVISTS around the world on Wednesday this week, 12th December marked the International Universal Health Coverage Day, an issue that sparks strong sentiments in many countries, on the validity or contingency of the matter.

The wish to be assisted when one falls sick is overwhelming, but it is not always done in the sense that no ready-made infrastructure exists to receive the sick exists, to treat them and provide other necessary care. Too many things are often on balance.

That this is a thorny issue is tied up with the fact that ordinarily it is from the family that one expects or ought to expect assistance in case of falling sick, but that sort of definition leaves plenty to chance. Family is basically a unit of persons of two or more generational standing living together as a unit, ordinarily headed by a man and comprising of a wife and children. Other relatives come only by chance.

When such a family situation is unclear, or such a family has no means of self-sustenance in case of sickness or relative infirmity for a short or longer period, the whole problem of universal health coverage comes up. It is essentially seen as a humanitarian concern, but it is difficult to cultivate because the health of the man or woman next door isn’t the concern of those who don’t live in that house or are not part of that family in the narrower sense of the term. Extended family is often unreliable as assurance of medical care; the bonds are tied to friendship, not duty.

In a note to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in view of this year’s marking of International Universal Health Coverage Day, United Nations SecretaryGeneral Antonio Guterres spoke of the need for strong leadership and community engagement. He said the two are essential in ensuring that all people get the healthcare they need. “On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to a world with health for all," he said, which can’t be contested by anyone with humanitarian sentiments, but it is quite another matter to translate it to action.

Since the fifth phase government came into office it has boosted health expenditure by a tremendous magnitude, by massive increases of the budgeting for construction of health care facilities at all levels, and breaking medical supply cartels. The debt that used to cripple the Medical Stores Department was cleared, and middlemen between Medical Stores and manufacturers removed. Drugs are more readily available as a result. Even with a bird’s eye view, the day was marked deservedly.

Proximity of healthcare centres and availability of drugs – which aren’t as yet perfect all the same – are just an aspect of the problem. We face huge hurdles for instance in providing for nutrition of sick people when oftentimes those who fall sick are the breadwinners and there is scarcely any other input. Disease has a way of throwing families into absolute poverty, so we mark this day with trepidation.


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