Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the health sector have called on government and its development partners to overcome the increasing inequities in the healthcare system by filling “resources gap” through efficiency improvements and increased funding as committed in the Abuja Declaration.
According to the NGO’s, in Malawi, vulnerability to impoverishment caused by inequitable access to quality health care remains high; as a significant proportion of the population is still underserved, where citizens experience shortages of committed providers, lack of essential drugs and essential medical products which are made worse by low funding, inefficiencies, weak leadership, weak supply chain management and irrational use.
In a press statement released as the world commemorates the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day on Tuesday, the 17 NGO’s also known asUHC Coalition members which include Oxfam, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Malawi Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (MANET+), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and Partners in Health highlighted that Malawi’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) has the potential to improve through transformative, highly innovative and low-cost solutions.
Reads the statement in part: “At just about US$34 per capita per year against US$127 per capita per year for most SADC countries, Malawi now must pay for a high burden of disease, with non-communicable diseases on the rise. Health care indicators and human stories captured tell us that despite the efforts being made, the majority of Malawians suffer financial hardship to access even the basic healthcare services in public health facilities.
“Persistent reports of wastage and high vacancies rates of about 45 percent, lack of power for storage of drugs and vaccines and poor patients’ transport system with only 24 percent of health facilities having a functioning ambulance require radical reforms to unshackle the system.”
The UHC Coalition members emphasised on enhancement of efficiency, promotion of greater predictability and effectiveness of external aid for health.
They also indicated that development partners’ whose aid they appreciate so much should remain committed for both short and medium terms to complement domestic funding.
“We ask them to harmonise their practices and services delivery. We discourage stand-alone projects which might appear to be successful in the short term but face sustainability and scale up challenges,” it further reads.
They have also called on individuals to take a leading role and start holding servicer providers and their leadership to account. The NGOs indicated the need for citizens to input into policies and strategies that support UHC and ensure that they are active participants in services design and delivery.
Universal Health Coverage Day, commemorated on every 12 December, is a unanimous United Nations resolution calling upon governments to provide affordable, quality health care to their citizens. UHC means everyone can access and utilise quality health services based on their need without financial hardship.
According to the coalition members, UHC can powerfully contribute to Sustainable Development Goals and Malawi Growth and Development Strategy.
Its goal is to enable access to care with financial protection for all.
In April 2001, the African Union countries met in Abuja Nigeria and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15 percent of their annual budget to improve the health sector and urged donor countries to scale up support.
However, in its 2011 report, the World Health Organisation indicated that Most African countries including Malawi were finding it hard to achieve the set recommendations due to lack of financial resources.