Martins Ifijeh

African Heads of State, Ministers of Health and Finance, business leaders and global partners have launched a new initiative aimed at increasing commitments for health, improving impact of spending and ensuring achievement of universal health coverage across Africa’s 55 countries.

Making the commitment at the 32nd summit of the African Union (AU) in Rwanda recently, they said this was to ensure the continent meets the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

President, Republic of Rwanda and AU Chair, President Paul Kagame who convened the meeting tagged ‘Investing in Health’, said, “Governments should surely be willing and able to increase domestic investment in healthcare.

“A good indicator of this is the progress we have made towards securing the financial health of the African Union and mobilising our own resources for joint priorities, such as the Peace Fund. We should be the first ones to contribute to efforts that directly benefit our people.”

AU Commission Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said the continent has set ambitious health targets for 2030 which are ending epidemics and achieving universal health coverage for all, but noted that the reality was that without substantial increases in domestic investment, and a radical change in the way health is harmonised to domestic and continental priorities, the continent will soon lose any realistic chance of reaching these objectives.

She said: “Member states and Africa’s partners must reorient health spending and health systems to target the diseases across the life cycle that have the greatest measurable impact on mortality and human capital development.
“We have a responsibility to African citizens to increase our investments today and we must not turn our back on them.”
Since the Abuja Declarations in 2000 and 2001, Africa’s progress in improving health outcomes has been significant. Life expectancy has increased by more than a decade, deaths from infectious diseases like malaria have halved in sub-Saharan Africa, and under five mortality rates have seen an increased rate of reduction.
“However, enormous challenges remain. More than half of Africa’s population currently lack access to essential health services, and millions die every year from commonly preventable diseases.

“Meanwhile, only three AU Member States dedicate five per cent of GDP to health, as set out in the Abuja declarations. Between 2016-16, 30 Member States increased the percentage of government budget invested in health, while 21 decreased their investment,” the AU committee chair said.

The Executive Director, Global Fund, Peter Sands said he was tremendously inspired by this African-led initiative to boost investments in health across Africa, adding that to end epidemics, strengthen health systems and deliver universal health coverage, everyone has to step up investments in health.”

On his part, the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Seth Berkley said since 2000, more than 293 million children in Africa have been immunised through the Gavi support.

He said: “While we know that governments across the continent face a range of competing, worthy priorities, it’s inspiring to see so many choose to put the health of their population first.”

Sharing his thoughts, co-Founder, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, said, “The time to mobilise domestic resources for health is now. The nations of the African Union have set bold, ambitious targets.

“If governments increase their investments in health, not a decade from now, but immediately, we know it is possible to meet set targets. We can end the epidemics of AIDS, TB, and malaria. We can achieve universal health coverage and grow Africa’s economy in the process.”