Discussions will review the continent’s progress and challenges in achieving health for all, in the run-up to the first UN high-level meeting on universal health coverage (UHC) in September 2019
March 5, 2019, Kigali: Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, urged governments across Africa to work together to fund health care systems on the continent at the opening of the Africa Health Agenda International Conference 2019 (Africa Health 2019) in Kigali, Rwanda.
“Investing in Universal Health Coverage is one of the smartest investments a country can make,” said Dr Gashumba. “In the past two decades, African countries have displayed commendable leadership in furthering the UHC agenda across the continent. We must ensure that this movement is sustained through greater domestic investments in health care and that all ministries and stakeholders do their part.”
The conference, co-hosted by Amref Health Africa and Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, has brought together over 1,200 participants from more than 35 countries, including health ministers, private sector leaders, civil society and representatives from multilateral organisations, to chart a roadmap to achieve UHC across Africa by 2030.
Speakers at the opening ceremony included Dr Diane Gashumba, Minister of Health of Rwanda; Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa; Dr Ian Askew, Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization; and Dr Humphrey Karamagi, SDG Coordinator and Health Information Team Leader, World Health Organization Africa Regional Office.
“Health is the most fundamental human right on which all other rights can be enjoyed. Universal health coverage is its guarantee,” said Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO at Amref Health Africa. “Globally, there is growing consensus on the need to universalise access to quality health care – both as a path to economic development and because it is the right thing to do. Going forward, we need to galvanise political will at the highest levels of government, mobilise greater resources to eliminate catastrophic health costs, and invest in community-led interventions.”
Speakers highlighted the urgency of accelerating efforts to reach UHC in African countries, including the need for increased domestic financing and greater political prioritisation of UHC, as well as effective public-private partnerships to share learnings, leverage innovative technologies and scale evidence-based, cost-effective solutions to improve health outcomes.
Many of the speakers noted Rwanda’s commitment to expanding health coverage through its near-universal health care system, as well as its investments in strengthening primary health care and the community health workforce, which have been instrumental in driving improvements in health outcomes and promoting health equity. Rwanda has made impressive progress in the past two decades, and its nationwide community-based health insurance model covers nearly 90% of all Rwandans today, including the poorest of the poor.
While significant progress has been made in the past two decades to improve access to quality health care across Africa, critical challenges remain. Out-of-pocket expenditure has increased in nearly all countries, and the regional average has increased from $15 per capita in 1995 to $38 in 2014. As a result, 11 million Africans are falling into poverty every year due to high out-of-pocket payments. In 2001, through the Abuja Declaration, African governments had committed to increasing their health spending to 15% of their annual budget; however, only six countries have achieved or surpassed the target.
The 3-day conference, from 5-7 March 2019, consists of scientific tracks, roundtables, interactive workshops, and high-level symposia on tuberculosis, malaria and health in fragile and conflict-affected states, among others. In the days ahead, programme highlights will include plenaries on how to finance UHC and increase access and quality of health services; presentations on technological innovations that are rapidly changing the face of the sector; the launch of a new initiative advocating for gender equality in health leadership in Africa; and more.
In September 2019, the UN General Assembly will hold the first-ever UN High-Level Meeting on universal health coverage. The General Assembly is expected to galvanise global commitment to UHC by voting on a historic political declaration in support of health for all. In the run-up to the High-Level Meeting on UHC, Africa Health 2019 will serve as a platform where participants from across the African continent can make their voices heard and contribute their perspectives to the forthcoming declaration on UHC.
Africa Health 2019 – formally, the Africa Health Agenda International Conference – is an African-led global convening, bringing together diverse stakeholders to address how Africa can accelerate progress toward UHC, and to collectively chart a course forward, from commitment to action. Co-hosted by Amref Health Africa and Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, the conference spotlights the greatest health challenges facing Africa, and how new research, innovation and political commitments can solve those challenges and advance UHC. The main conference was preceded by a Youth Pre-conference, which brought together over 300 youth leaders and young professionals from across the continent to be at the centre of critical discussions on the future of UHC in Africa and launched a regional movement to engage youth in UHC policies and processes.
The Ministry of Health, Rwanda, seeks to pursue an integrated and community-driven development process through the provision of equitable, accessible and quality health care services for all Rwandans. Rwanda is widely recognised internationally as a health success story for prioritising health coverage and for attaining the Abuja Declaration commitment of allocating more than 15% of its state budget to health and massively subsidising its national health insurance system.
Amref Health Africa, founded in 1957, is the largest African-led international organisation on the continent, reaching more than 9 million people each year through 150 health-focused projects across 35 countries.
About Universal Health Coverage:
The Sustainable Development Goals set forth an ambitious target to provide access to quality, affordable health care for all by 2030 — a target that has evolved into a global movement. Universal health coverage (UHC) ensures all people, everywhere, can access the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It is a fundamentally political goal rooted in the human right to health. The consensus among experts, including more than 360 economists from 53 countries , is that UHC is a smart investment and an achievable goal that enables people to fulfil their potential and contribute to the development of their countries. At least half of the world’s population does not have full coverage of essential health services, and each year, about 100 million people are pushed into “extreme poverty” (defined as living on US $1.90 or less a day) because of health care expenses they cannot afford.
Amref Health Africa and our partners have spokespeople available for media interviews on UHC and health-related stories, and we are able to provide comment on the commitments that African governments have made to the promotion of UHC.