Civil society pushes for more investment in public health

In 2008, 26 African countries committed to allocating at least 2 per cent of budgets of ministries of health to research but it did not materialize.

The African Civil Society Platform for Health (ACSPH) has requested African governments to increase investment in the public health sector.

They made the call last week on the sidelines of the African Union Summit that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“While Africa registered progress in health, millions of people still die from preventable diseases and other health challenges, including HIV,” a statement reads in part.

“There is an urgent need to accelerate scientific breakthroughs and health innovations to deliver new tools for health”.

They applauded President Kagame and other African leaders for launching a new continental initiative that aims at increasing commitments for health.

In 2008, 26 African countries committed to allocating at least 2 per cent of budgets of ministries of health to research (the Bamako Declaration) but it did not materialise. This prompted the experts to make several recommendations.

The first was to implement mechanisms that will significantly increase public health investments fulfilling the commitment to invest at least 5% of GDP to health.

“We are concerned that the commitment by our governments to increase domestic financing for health to 5 per cent of GDP has not yet been realised” the statement adds.

According to the Africa Scorecard on Domestic Financing for Health (2018), only two out of 55 AU member states have met the target of dedicating at least 15 per cent of the Government budget to health.

The second recommendation was to finance health research and innovation in line with the commitment to invest at least 2 per cent of national health budgets to health research and development.

The experts observed that Africa cannot make significant and sustained health progress against existing and emerging health threats using current technologies alone.

“Africa must innovate and invest in research to develop new vaccines, drugs, diagnostic and other health tools,” the added.

Finally, the team recommended that measures be taken to ensure increased efficiencies and effectiveness of available resources for health.

“The greatest driver of the African economy is neither its natural resources nor physical infrastructure, but human capital,” they said.

According to the experts, all the above can be achieved through accountability on how health is governed and delivered in Africa.