In an attempt to improve universal access to health services, the East African Community (EAC) is pushing for a social health protection programme across all member states, the New Times in Rwanda reported. However, the World Health Organisation’s co- ordinator of health financing policy, Joe Kutzin, says that universal health coverage is a direction more than a destination.
“What this means is that you want to move towards universal coverage. You want to improve access, financial protection and quality. And in that sense, those are goals for every country in the world,” Kutzin told over 200 participants at the opening of a threeday regional conference on social health protection, which took place in Kigali, Rwanda in September. The aim of the conference was to consider various approaches to providing universal health coverage in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi. Universal coverage is the subject of a new study that reviewed health systems in 12 African and Asian countries.
Kutzin alluded to the fact that African countries have not fulfilled the Abuja Declaration, which requires EAC members to allocate 15 per cent of their annual budgets to the health sector.
“In order to become a middle-income economy, a need for regional collaboration and co- ordination of social health protection mechanisms must be targeted.” This was according to Ambassador Richard Sezibera, secretary general for the EAC.
“More countries are looking for ways to develop financing systems so everyone has equitable and affordable access to health services. Each country can take immediate steps toward universal coverage despite its levels of economic development,” Sezibera explains. However, Kutzin adds that some finance ministries are skeptical about disbursing such money because health ministries have not given full accountability of the funds. This was disputed by Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, who said that “all governments are capable of doing what Rwanda has done by giving priority to the health sector”. Rwanda allocates 16 per cent of its national budget to the health sector.