Tunisia, Tunis (PANA) - Calling universal health coverage a noble vision for Africa, WHO Regional Director for Africa Luis Sambo Thursday highlighted the critical role national parliaments can play in adopting universal health care policy and legislation, and the allocation of adequate resources for its successful implementation to protect the poor against catastrophic health expenditures.
Speaking at the ongoing two-day high-level Ministerial conference on health financing: Value for Money, Sustainability and Accountability in the Health Sector, holding in Tunis, Tunisia, Dr. Sambo urged all concerned to take concrete steps to invest in the health of the human capital, which is very essential for economic growth and sustainable development.
“It is an aspiration of the majority of countries around the world that requires effective homegrown financing strategy. It implies equitable and efficient revenue collection, prepayment, pooling and purchasing of cost effective health packages,” he said.
Referring to the uneven coverage of essential health services in the African Region, particularly regarding Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4, 5 and 6, the Regional Director highlighted the most recent estimates of maternal mortality ratio in sub Saharan Africa, which is 480 deaths per 100,000 live births, and the under-five mortality rate, which is 119 deaths per 1000 live births.
He also highlighted the 60% case detection rates for tuberculosis and 50% coverage of pregnant women with HIV receiving antiretroviral medicines to prevent maternal to child transmission (MTCT), and the 49% coverage of antiretroviral therapy among people with advanced HIV infection.
Dr. Sambo told participants at the conference that these indicators clearly show coverage gaps in public health interventions, thereby affecting progress towards the attainment of the MGDs.
He attributed the low coverage of health and health services to the weak capacity of public services in terms of organisation and management of human, financial and technological resources.
To achieve universal coverage, Dr Sambo proposed four main thrusts - strengthening the capacities of public health infrastructure to provide effective, safe and quality health services; raising sufficient resources for health - from domestic and external sources; promoting efficiency of national health services to optimise resources and maximise results and removing financial risks and barriers to access through compulsory prepayment- payment before need for health care arises.
The Regional Director placed emphasis on prepayment and pooling of available financial resources to spread financial risks across the population to ensure that people can use health services without fear of financial ruin.
He said in spite of ongoing challenges, some countries have implemented health insurance schemes on a national scale.
Dr. Sambo therefore called on Ministries of Finance in collaboration with international financing institutions to play a major role in pursuit of universal health coverage through assessment of financial feasibility and sustainability of prepaid health financing systems, along with strengthening the national health financing system among others.
Over 300 participants, comprising Ministers of Health, Ministers of Finance and their representatives, parliamentarians, civil society organisations, private sector enterprises and representatives of bilateral and multilateral development partners, are attending the conference, organised by member agencies of the Harmonisation for Health in Africa mechanism (HHA).
The 4-5 July conference is expected to end with the adoption of the Tunis Declaration on Value for Money, Sustainability and Accountability in the Health Sector.
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