Africa Urged to Prioritise Spending to Meet SDGs

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Obinna Chima
African governments will miss health development goals in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) unless spending prioritises the poorest, most vulnerable groups in their societies.

Investments in the health sector by sub-Saharan African governments have seen significant improvements in life expectancy and general overall health.

But the 2016 Africa data report by ONE recently showed that Africa’s poorest 20 per cent face the worst health outcomes as governments continue to under-invest in the health sector.
At current public health investment levels, sub-Saharan Africa will not meet key health SDG targets by 2030, the report insisted.

The ONE Campaign’s report stressed that the bad news “is that the region is lagging furthest behind on health-related sustainable development goals.”

The report titled “Health Financing, Outcomes, and Inequality in sub-Saharan Africa” cautioned that governments must ensure investments in health reach the poorest and most vulnerable groups and proposes innovative uses of technology and social protection programmes.

The report showed sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of child mortality, and faces the highest risk of malaria, accounting for roughly 90 per cent of cases and deaths globally. Income inequality has also had a substantial effect in the region as progress in health outcomes in key areas has been faster for the wealthy compared to the poor.

In the 15 years since the Abuja Declaration, in which African governments committed to spend 15 per cent of their budgets towards health, less than half of these African countries have met this target in any given year.

On average, between 2012 and 2014, only Malawi, Swaziland, and Ethiopia met this target.
Crucially, investing in health had been shown to save lives and grow the economy. A study found that for every 10 per cent increase in government health expenditure per capita, there has been a 25 per cent reduction in under-five mortality and a 21 per cent reduction in infant mortality.

Therefore, ONE called on policy markets in the continent to ensure that the poorest 20 per cent of the population are prioritised in health interventions; introduce and scale up social protection programmes that benefit the poorest and most vulnerable, such as child care grants and cash-transfers; utilise information and communications technology (ICT) and management information systems (MIS) to reach the poorest and most vulnerable, and to improve access to health services and service delivery; and make their budgets transparent and procurement processes open to close out opportunities for corruption.