Many African countries have demonstrated commitment to achieving universal health coverage (UHC) amid disruptions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Saturday during the Universal Health Coverage Day.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said that universal health coverage has gained policy and financing traction in the continent to help tackle a growing disease burden.
“The attainment of UHC is a high priority in African countries and reforms are happening to make more services available, to more people, with stronger financial risk protection,” Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
Moeti said that the theme of this year’s Universal Health Coverage Day — “Health for All: Protect Everyone” resonated with the urgency to cushion vulnerable demographics from COVID-19 shocks. The Day is celebrated annually on December 12 and is promoted by the World Health Organization.
She said that robust government-industry linkages have enhanced access to quality health services in Africa, adding that in Eswatini, Malawi, Rwanda and Equatorial Guinea, the access gap was narrowed significantly between 2017 and 2019.
“Efforts to improve financial risk protection are underway through health insurance coupled with increases in government spending, for example in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Zambia,” said Moeti.
Statistics from WHO indicate that the universal health coverage index across Africa improved from 46 out of 100 in 2017 to 48 in 2019 but fell short of the global average of 66.
In addition, an average of 7 percent of households on the continent are suffering from prohibitive health expenditure while only 14 out of 47 countries are on track to achieve universal health coverage.
Moeti said that resource constraints escalated by the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases like Ebola, Measles and Yellow Fever have slowed down progress towards attaining health for all goals in Africa.
“To reach the UHC goals for 2030, accelerated action is needed. Realizing health for all requires investments and action by all stakeholders,” said Moeti.
She said that African countries should leverage on reforms, innovative financing, digitization and capacity building in order to hasten progress towards attaining a universal health coverage agenda.