As the 59th session of World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa kicks off, it’s important that the summit reflects on the key impediments that continue to stifle this sector.
Across the continent, the issues of universal access to quality and affordable health services remain big challenges.
Good enough, Rwanda seems to have crafted innovative solutions that tackle these problems head-on that the rest of Africa could emulate.
Within Mutuelle de Sante, a community based health insurance scheme, Rwanda has not only addressed the challenge of affordability but also that of universal access.
Mutuelles are community-based health organisations that offer voluntary, non-profit health insurance schemes for the entire population. They are formed on the basis of mutual aid and collective pooling of resources at local sector and central government.
The ultimate goal is to ensure that even the most vulnerable have basic health insurance coverage.
It’s so much affordable that households pay annual premium of about 1000 francs (approximately $1.8) to access almost free health services through out the year.
But where ordinary citizens cannot pay the individual or family premium up-front, government has chipped in to support these initiatives by paying fees for those that cannot afford any level of coverage.
It has worked so well that Rwanda is today making significant progress towards universal coverage.
For example, only seven percent of Rwandans accessed health services in 2003 but by last year, coverage stood at 85 percent.
To address the issue of quality services within the health sector, Rwanda introduced performance based financing to improve quality of care.
This has empowered and challenged every concerned stakeholder especially at the grass root levels to demand better results each day.
These bold initiatives mainly rotating around leadership, accountability and community empowerment have started producing dividends for Rwanda’s health sector.
Therefore, as the week long WHO summit goes into full gear, our African brothers and sisters could pick a leaf from these unique experiences that could easily be introduced back in their respective countries.