Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi has called on the private sector to scale up investments in the continent’s health sector to improve healthcare and help achieve universal health coverage.
The premier was speaking at the opening of inaugural Africa Health Forum of the World Health Organisation in Kigali, yesterday.
The summit gathers high-level officials, including African health ministers, UN envoys, representatives of intergovernmental agencies, academicians, civil society players, industry players, philanthropists and the private sector.
The two-day summit largely seeks to look into challenges in the African healthcare sector as well as deliberating best practices.
Murekezi said, as African countries set up strategies to improve health systems on the continent, it will be important to have all stakeholders on board, including the private sector.
“I also call upon our fellow African countries to set up strategies that will help them to implement the resolutions from this forum. I request health stakeholders on the continent and beyond to support Africa’s efforts in this regard, and to ensure that such efforts are aligned to national aspirations and priorities.”
Universal health coverage
To improve health systems, achieve universal health coverage and improve health security, Murekezi said it was important for African countries to collaborate more.
“African countries must work together and learn from each other through sharing experiences. This will certainly translate the 2063 dream of “Good Health and Well-Being” into a reality,” he said.
The theme of the Kigali Africa Health Forum is “Putting People First: The Road to Universal Health Coverage in Africa.”
“This theme is very important. It is a good opportunity to advise African countries on how to efficiently improve health security, progress toward equity and universal health coverage, and the unfinished agenda of communicable diseases,” he added.
The much-needed improvement in universal health coverage, Murekezi said, is even more realistic with the recent election of Dr Tedro Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the new Director-General of the World Health Organisation.
“The road to universal health coverage in Africa is also one of the priorities of Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus,” the premier noted.
Sharing Rwanda’s experience in improving the health system, Murekezi said the country had turned to home grown solutions.
“Since 1994, the health sector undertook several reforms. Rwanda set up innovative solutions, such as Ubudehe, a home-grown approach that assigns health support to citizens according to their socio-economic status. Our country is now advancing toward universal health coverage,” he said.
Other innovations to improve healthcare, the premier said, include Mutuelle de Sante and the Government’s subsidisation of healthcare services such as malaria treatment.
These innovations have enabled the country achieve the Health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and have been termed as a building block toward Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“These efforts have now made Rwanda one of the few African countries with more than 90 per cent coverage for immunisation and access to critical health services, including TB treatment and ARVs,” the Premier said.
With a majority of the continent’s population made up of the youth, health concerns of youth and adolescents took centre stage at the forum.
The forum noted that despite the vitality of the youth, HIV has disproportionately affected African children and adolescents.
During the 30 years of the global HIV burden, around 17 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, a majority of them from Africa.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said it was important to have the youth not only as beneficiaries of services but also as decision makers for a more prosperous sector.
“Africa has the advantage as the world is getting older, because our population is getting younger. There is so much potential to harness this vitality and energy to create health systems that suit all. But we need to act now to safeguard their health by creating youth-friendly health services and encouraging healthy lifestyles,” she said.
“We want our youth to not just be beneficiaries of services, but to be with us at the decision-making table as we partner across sectors for a more prosperous, sustainable future for everyone in Africa.”
The two-day summit, which ends today, features topics such as health financing, research and innovation, universal health coverage, among others.