Campaign for better health for women, children launched

17Apr 2016
Guardian On Sunday
Campaign for better health for women, children launched

AFRICAN Health Budget Network (AHBN) on Friday launched at the 2016 Spring Meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group, which ends in the US capital, Washington, today.

Pregnant women and new mothers wait at the Ngara Naro Health Center (File photo)

A campaign dubbed Value Our Health, aimed at advocating for more funding and amplifying African voices for better spending on women and children’s health.

The Africa Health Budget Network is a group of African, global organizations and individuals already using or wishing to use budget advocacy as a tool to improve health service delivery in Africa.

Value Our Health campaign calls African governments to increase budget location for maternal and newborn health and increase citizens access to budget information, provide more opportunity for public engagement in budget process, crucially budget formulation and implementation.

The campaign also asks to establish open legislative hearings and allow the public to testify, develop mechanisms such as social audits for the public to feed into budget formulation and implementation, provide access to comprehensive, clear, consistent and timely budget information, specifically increasing the number of budget documents that are produced, ensure that all key budget documents that are produced are published, and improve the quality of the published documents by ensuring that they are comprehensive, clear, consistent and timely.

Quite different from other launches, which are usually accompanied by champagne, buffet and drinks, the campaign was launched with a panel discussion, which looked at the critical role that budget transparency and participation play in translating health commitments into better health spending for women and children in Africa.

Panelists were drawn from a range of stakeholders from Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health to civil society and the media, all of whom have an important role to play in ensuring public spending on health is in line with national priorities.

Aminu Magashi Garba from AHBN, who moderated the session, said: “It has been shown that public participation and open budgets can improve the health of citizens, because the budgets will be influenced by the priorities of the people who use health services every day.

“We see from the 'Panama Papers' that transparency matters because it's our money. Imagine what $50bn could provide for Africa if it were not going elsewhere through illicit financial flows. African voices are calling for better spending on women and children. Value our health.”

Kenneth Mugabe, Director of Budgets in the Ugandan Ministry of Finance, said: “Open budgets are critical for improving the delivery of public services such as health. In Uganda, we have made transparency part and parcel of our budgetary system.

“By forming strong partnerships with civil society, we have been able to ensure that information goes out to the broader public and that that the views of the public are fed back into the system. In this way, we work with the public to hold line ministries to account.”

According to the 2015 Open Budget Survey, which included 27 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, only three countries Malawi, South Africa and Uganda provide substantial budget information, 13 countries provide minimal, scant or no budget information, seven countries could increase budget transparency at almost no cost by publishing documents that the government already produces and eight francophone countries have seen a marked increase in transparency since 2012, largely as a result of regional directives on Public Financial Management and a civil society push for more budget information.

Open Budget Survey results for 2015, conducted by International Budget Partnership (IBP) show that Tanzania is not doing very well (performance in brackets), hence recommending Tanzania to improve budget transparence (46%), participation (33 per cent) and oversight (39 per cent by legislature and 50 per cent by auditor).

The Spring Meetings of IMF and the World Bank Group is an annually meeting which brings together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives, and academics to discuss issues of global concern, including the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, and aid effectiveness.