It may have been a rather quiet segment of the big meetings that took place in Addis Ababa last week.
But the Africa Leadership Meeting that was held to discuss viable means of Investing in Health made its mark on the policy front.
Rwandan President and outgoing African Union chairman Paul Kagame asked governments to increase domestic investments in healthcare because such investments directly benefit citizens.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta underscored the important role that health plays in the continent’s economic growth. Mr Kenyatta encouraged the private sector to partner with governments in their health initiatives so that together they can advance healthcare commitments such as the universal healthcare coverage.
These conversations present to us an opportune moment to train our guns on health – a fundamental human right.
Underscoring the need to focus on health is the fact that East Africa is in sub–Saharan Africa – the region that bears the biggest burden of life-threatening epidemics such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.
Africa was in 2017 home to 92 percent of malaria cases and 93 percent of malaria deaths, according to World Health Organisation (WHO).
Besides, in 2016, 2.5 million people fell ill with tuberculosis in Africa, accounting for a quarter of new TB cases worldwide. Over 25 percent of TB deaths occur in Africa.
The plain meaning of all this is that increasing domestic resources for health will save lives, enable African countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, which aims to achieve healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all 2030.
Increasing domestic resources for health is also the surest way to achieve Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC), increase access to promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health care services without suffering financial hardships.
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda are making great strides towards achieving UHC.
In Kenya, for instance, health care is part of President Kenyatta’s Big 4 agenda. UHC is already being piloted in four counties – Isiolo, Kisumu, Machakos and Nyeri.
Rwanda has already achieved more than 90 percent UHC.
In 2018, Uganda increased its budgetary allocation to the health sector from Ush1.8 trillion ($470.6 million) in the 2017/18 financial year to Ush2.3 trillion ($595.6 million).
Tanzania’s UHC coverage stands above 30 percent. Efforts to make quality and affordable health care accessible to all citizens are absolutely necessary and commendable. Yet more domestic resources are needed to sustain progress made so far, and to accomplish more.
In 2018, AU member states endorsed the Africa Scorecard on Domestic Financing for Health. The scorecard is a tool for member states to use in financial planning and expenditure tracking for health.
It puts Tanzania’s budgetary allocation to health at 2.16 percent of its GDP, 1.73 percent for Kenya, 1.69 percent for Rwanda, and 0.98 percent for Uganda.
Chatham House – The Royal Institute of International Affairs recommends that countries dedicate 5 percent of their GDP to health to ensure affordable and quality health care services for all citizens.
Own resources vs donors
In fact, not a single citizen should be left out. The need for countries to allocate own domestic resources to provide health care to their own people cannot be overstated.
It is the long-term path to sustainable development finance and the reduction of dependence on donor funding.
A sizeable funding of this region’s investments in health comes from donors.
For example, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda are beneficiaries of the Global Fund for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. The Global Fund is a 21st-century partnership organisation designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics.
The fund provides prevention, treatment and care services to hundreds of millions of people across the world, helping to revitalize entire communities, strengthen local health systems and improve economies. Since it was founded in 2002, the Global Fund partnership has saved more than 27 million lives. 65 percent of its programs are in Africa.
2019 is the 6th replenishment of the Global Fund. The Global Fund Advocates Network in Africa is urging governments to reach out to donors in their countries and encourage them to increase allocations to the Global Fund replenishment to ensure it is fully funded.
A well-resourced and organised healthcare system is vital. It results in the delivery of needed healthcare services for all citizens. It means the population is able to combat illnesses and therefore, reduces financial burdens on the country and ensures that there is absolutely no financial hardship on individuals.
Healthy citizens are more productive. A productive workforce will result in a thriving economy. Increasing domestic resources for health will result in economic growth.
Rosemary Mburu, the Executive Director of WACI Health.