Chief Executive Officer of Amref Health Africa, Group Dr Githinji Gitahi said that it is not acceptable that some members of society should face death, disability, ill health or impoverishment for reasons that could be addressed at limited cost.
He was speaking during the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) 2019 opening ceremony on Tuesday in Kigali, Rwanda.
AHAIC is the largest African led health convening on the continent, which brought together diverse stakeholders to address how Africa can accelerate progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and collectively chart a course forward from commitment to action.
UHC is target number 3.8 in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reflects an approach which is rooted in human rights. Everyone is entitled to healthcare they need without facing financial hardship.
According to Dr Gitahi, many African countries still contend with many health challenges and most health systems are not able to respond effectively and hence exposing populations to disabilities and pre mature deaths.
“These challenges call for renewed commitments and accelerated progress toward Universal Health Coverage” he said underscoring the need to act sooner than later to accelerate progress towards UHC.
UHC calls for financial protection of people when they seek healthcare, but according to Dr Gitahi, majority of people from African countries fall into poverty due to high out of pocket (OOP) payments on health care. OOP is an act of people paying for health care from their own household income.
World Health Organization (WHO), statistics provided at AHAIC, show that 11 million Africans fall into poverty every year due to high OOP payment for health care, and that 40 percent of total health expenditure in 22 African countries come from OOP payment.
Out-of-pocket payments have increased in nearly all countries from US$15 per capita in 1995, to US$38 in 2014, protecting people against the impoverishing effect of health payments is a cornerstone of UHC and will help prevent poverty in Africa, according UHC in Africa A Framework for Action.
“I look forward to the day when all Africans will access the health services they deserve regardless of their financial capability,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General via video address to AHAIC 2019 attendees.
According to the Director of Preventive Services from The Ministry of Health Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Leonard Subi, Tanzania is on good progress towards UHC, under One Access to Preventive, Curative, Rehabilitative and Palliative Care, Tanzania has embarked on strengthening health systems.
“Within a year the government has built and rehabilitated more than 350 health facilities,” Dr Subi told The Guardian when reached for comments on UHC country progress.
He said the 350 health facilities have been upgraded to be able to provide emergency surgical operation in rural areas.
In additional to that, Dr Subi said that the government is building 67 new district hospitals in district councils without district hospitals, 1.5 bn/- has been given to new hospitals.
However Dr Subi did not elaborate whether 1.5bn/- is for construction or commodities like medicine.
While immunization rates has stagnated in Africa at around 74 percent in recent years, below the global target of 90 percent and hence exposing populations to vaccine preventable disease and outbreaks, according to WHO.
According to Dr Subi, immunization rate for Tanzania stands at 98 percent.