Abuja +12 Summit: African Civil SocietyPushes for Universal Health Coverage, Increased Funding for Health and Accountability

{Photo credit: MSH}L--R: Mayowa Joel Communication for Development Centre; Hor Sidua Coordinator of Universal Healthcare for All campaign, Ghana; Dr Stephen Karau, Country Director, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Kenya; Arije Adebisi, Director of Communications, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) Nigeria; Dr. David Olayemi, Senior Advocacy Manager, Save the ChildrenPhoto credit: MSH

Management Sciences for Health (MSH)  joined African civil society organizations (CSOs) at a side event  on July 2 of  the Abuja +12 meeting of African heads of governments. The groups   agreed that universal health coverage should be included in the  post-2015 development agenda.

In April 2001, the Heads of State and Government of the African Union signed the Abuja Declaration after undertaking a critical review of the rapid spread of HIV and AIDS on the continent. The Declaration cited practical strategies to deal with the menace. It also urged governments of member states to increase funding for health to at least 15% of the national budget. 

The Nigerian government and the African Union (AU) will co-host the Abuja +12 Special Summit of the AU Heads of government from July 15 to July 19 to review the 2001 Abuja declaration. The Summit intends to focus on the unfinished work of the health-related Millennium Development Goals. It will serve as an avenue to review the progress made on the implementation of the Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Communicable Diseases. It will also propose a framework for post-2015 development agenda for Africa. 

In preparation for this event, a cross section of CSOs in Africa from Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana gathered to decide the African civil society perspective on universal health coverage. The event was facilitated by Communication for Development Centre with support from the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Management Sciences for Health (MSH), Save the Children, Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR), Universal Healthcare Campaign Ghana, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Education as a Vaccine against AIDS (EVA) among others, participated in the session. 

Annick Jeantet, a WHO Consultant who was represented by Mayowa Joel, head of Communication for Development Centre, stated that universal health coverage (UHC) is not restricted to cure for diseases or health financing. She asserted that UHC is about improving access to health services that the population needs. She said “with improved access to needed health services, children learn in schools, adults earn and there will be social cohesion. UHC ensures people do not suffer unnecessary financial burden because of illness” 

Adebisi  Arije, Director of Communications at Management Sciences for Health-Nigeria, remarked that UHC should be a health target in post-2015 development framework. She said, “UHC is the critical missing link in the High Level Panel report on the post-2015 development agenda. It should be included as a specific explicit health target when the MDGs expire in 2015.” She also described the Health for All campaign led by MSH with support from Rockefeller Foundation to work toward UHC in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Kenya. 

Participants opined that African leaders must not only support UHC as a health goal post-2015 but increase funding for health. “We should provide access to healthcare for all Africans at a pace we can afford” said Sidua Hor, the Coordinator of the Universal Healthcare Campaign in Ghana, “every country should develop its own roadmap to achieve UHC and mobilize resources locally to finance it.”

Dr. Stephen Karau, the Country Director of AHF Kenya said, “Although UHC is entrenched in the constitution of Kenya, funding for health is reducing. This worries me. It is disturbing to realize that 12 years after the Abuja declaration, only about four countries in Africa budget at least 15% of national budget on health.” 

“We must remain persistent in asking for increased funding for health. It may not happen in a year or two but we will continue to push,” he added. 

The participating groups also demanded accountability and transparency from African leaders alongside increased funding for health. Dr. David Olayemi, Senior Advocacy Manager of Save the Children Nigeria, asked, “Why should we increase funding for health in an atmosphere of corruption? Can we improve access to health services when health systems lack transparency?"

He remarked, “As CSOs, we must demand accountability and transparency from our leaders while we also demonstrate same. Without this, universal health coverage will be a mirage, and the poor and vulnerable will continue to suffer.”

The recommendations of all participating groups will be harmonized and presented during the Abuja +12 Summit of African heads of government which holds from July 15 to July 19 in Abuja. 

Abuja+12 Summit: Recommendations from Civil Society Side Events, 2-3 July 2013

Universal Health Coverage

African CSOs believe Universal health coverage is a critical component of sustainable development and poverty reduction, and a key element of any effort to reduce social inequities. Universal Health coverage is the hallmark of a government’s commitment to improve the wellbeing of all its citizens. 

We believe Universal health coverage means that all people have access to the health (including HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria) services they need (prevention, promotion, diagnostics, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care) without the risk of financial hardship when paying for them.

We believe UHC is a way to increase equity in access to quality health services for the entire population and also address the social-determinants of health and we urge government to commit to this policy in order to fulfil their responsibility towards the right to health.

We also believe Universal health coverage is, a way of ensuring continued progress towards the current health MDGs, while also helping countries address the growing threat of non-communicable diseases, mental illness and injuries. This implies continuing efforts to increase the availability and quality of services linked to the current MDGs, such as for HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, child health or maternal health.

  • We therefore urge our governments to provide the necessary legal support for UHC in the national constitutions. 
  • We urge our governments to provide adequate resources to health and social-determinants of health and to pool resources to protect people from the financial consequences of ill-health and paying for health services.
  • We urge our governments to develop mechanisms for improved accountability of resources for effective implementation and monitoring of UHC.
  • We urge our governments to support the inclusion of UHC as the health agenda in the post-2015 development framework.