She made the call in Dar es Salaam when speaking at the official opening of the joint meeting of SADC ministers of health and agencies responsible for HIV/Aids.
The meeting discussed and approved recommendations made by SADC senior officials in- charge of health and HIV who sat for two days in the country’s commercial capital.
Suluhu tasked SADC member states to come up with better strategies that will help their nations achieve UHC—a multi-stakeholder platform to promote collaborative working in countries and globally on strengthening health systems.
She suggested the need for ministers responsible for health and HIV/Aids to deeply look at achievements made in the region and identify challenges facing the member states so that the countries could come up with strategies that lead to achieving goals set in major health programmes, nationally and regionally.
She further informed the gathering that the Tanzanian government has prioritized the issue of strengthening health infrastructures and operational systems in working on its commitment towards executing UHC.
The VP said: “We would specifically ensure that health services are offered in considering the quality and geographical balance, and put in place systems that would enable citizens afford costs of health services.”
Construction of health centres countrywide was part of what is being done in line with the UHC objective, the Vice President noted.
Since 2016 the government has built over 350 new health facilities at ward level in different parts of the country and 67 others at district level, she stated.
Budgetary allocation for the health sector from domestic revenues has increased from 30bn/- in 2015/2016 to 260bn/- in 2019/2020 financial year.
Through the Medical Stores Department, the government has set up pooled procurement systems for medicines and medical devices in a bid to improve efficiency and reduce costs of buying drugs among SADC member states, she stated.
On her part, SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Tax called on member states to strengthen internal funding to finance health services, reducing donor-dependency as an aspect of the Abuja Declaration that tasks countries to allocate at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to improve the health sector. She also urged donor countries to scale up support.
For many years SADC countries have been relying on donors in implementing health projects, which the SADC administrator noted was not sustainable.
“For us to surmount challenges facing the health sector and HIV/Aids in particular, we need to reinforce our internal sources of funding as donors’ funds are becoming smaller and it will reach a point they will come to an end.”
She also lauded SADC Heads of State and Governments for adopting the global Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage during the recent UN High-Level meeting on UHC.
The political declaration has been described by UN Secretary General António Guterres as “the most comprehensive agreement ever reached on global health.” Last September SADC Head of States signed a political declaration during the UN General Assembly.
Dr Tax further said: “It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to make sure that the Declaration is implemented for the benefit of the people in SADC countries.”
Realising universal health coverage required that SADC member states ensure that they provide quality health services, but the burden of high spending on health care is also minimised.
“Without this crucial consideration, there is a risk that high costs in accessing health care could potentially drive an increasing number of our people into poverty by exorbitant out-of-pocket health care costs. This will further hamper the attainment of the SADC We Want, where economic well-being, improved standards of living and quality of life are guaranteed,” she stated.
Dr Rebecca Moeti, Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) said that this commitment should be translated into actions.
“I commend SADC member states for making several strides in addressing health-related challenges due to the political will that they have shown,” she enthused.