Health care: from com­mit­ments to ac­tion

Gov­ern­ments should con­cen­trate on pro­vid­ing ba­sic health care and af­ford­able drugs

Africa Renewal - - Africa Watch -

If there is one area that vividly sums up Africa's de­vel­op­ment chal­lenges, it is the field of health. Ev­ery year, lack of ac­cess to ba­sic health care, mostly caused by poor fund­ing, con­trib­utes to mil­lions of deaths, un­told suf­fer­ing and har­row­ing health tragedies on the con­ti­nent.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ( WHO), Africa car­ries 25% of the world's dis­ease bur­den but its share of global health ex­pen­di­tures is less than 1%. Worse still, it man­u­fac­tures only a frac­tion—less than 2%—of the medicines con­sumed on the con­ti­nent. A ma­jor­ity of Africans, mostly the poor and those in the mid­dle-in­come bracket, rely on un­der-funded public health fa­cil­i­ties while a small mi­nor­ity has ac­cess to well-funded, qual­ity pri­vate health care.

In 2001, African coun­tries agreed to al­lo­cate at least 15% of their bud­gets to health care. Yet 15 years later, only six coun­tries (Botswana, Burk­ina Faso, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda and Zam­bia) have met this com­mit­ment. Even in these coun­tries, universal ac­cess to de­cent health care is still un­re­al­ized.

It takes a lot of in­ge­nu­ity to turn the ship around. For ex­am­ple, Rwanda has man­aged to setup a na­tional health in­sur­ance scheme which now cov­ers 91% of all Rwan­dans. This is in sharp con­trast to other African coun­tries where med­i­cal in­sur­ance schemes cover, on av­er­age, less than 8% of the pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to WHO.

There are a few bright spots in fighting some dis­eases. Africa is fi­nally mak­ing head­way in the fight against malaria, the lead­ing cause of deaths in the re­gion. WHO an­nounced last year that the global in­ci­dence of malaria had fi­nally been slowed, largely due to a mas­sive roll­out of mos­quito nets, anti-malaria medicines and use of in­sec­ti­cides.

Over the past decade, thanks to height­ened em­pha­sis on preven­tion, treat­ment and care, the rate of new HIV in­fec­tions is slow­ing down as more in­fected peo­ple are re­ceiv­ing an­tiretro­vi­ral drugs.

Africa's key chal­lenge, how­ever, is con­fronting what still needs to be done. Gov­ern­ments should con­cen­trate on pro­vid­ing ac­cess to ba­sic health care and af­ford­able drugs, train­ing more com­mu­nity health work­ers and ex­tend­ing med­i­cal in­sur­ance cov­er­age through cre­ative part­ner­ships with the pri­vate sec­tor.

Rwanda Min­istry of Health

A doc­tor ex­ams a child at Rwa­ma­gana Hos­pi­tal in Eastern Prov­ince, Rwanda.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.