On International Women’s Day (IWD), we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. As we mark IWD 2019, we toast to women’s achievements – at home, at work and in our communities, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, workers, citizens and leaders. The theme of this year is #BalanceforBetter. A balanced world is indeed a better world. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive. In fact, gender balanced communities and institutions are more prosperous.
On 24th March, we marked the World TB Day. The theme for this year was, IT’S TIME. It’s indeed time to end TB. One missing person can infect up to 15 people with Tuberculosis (TB) every day.
Globally, over 4 million persons with TB were missed in 2016. Patients are considered “missing” when they have not been diagnosed, haven’t been notified of their status or if they default on treatment.
Despite vast efforts to educate the public on the risk factors associated with TB, large numbers of people diagnosed with the disease still do not get treatment for reasons such as stigma attached to the disease, or because they think that they have been cured after taking medication for less than the prescribed six-month period. Diagnostic delays is also a factor contributing to missing persons. Health system failures, such as poor recording of patients’ contact details, poor follow-up of patients who do not return to collect their test results, results not being available when patients return to the health facility and perceptions of poor quality of services (long waiting times, disrespectful staff) need to be addressed.
With the global TB incidence declining at only 1.5% per year, we are not on track for an 80% reduction in TB incidence by 2030. There is an urgent need for Governments to commit more resources for health to defeat the disease. We ask Governments to commit at least 5% of their GDP to health so that broadly, they build resilient and responsive health systems that provides comprehensive primary health care based on the principle of leaving no one behind.
In October this year, France will host the 6th Global Fund replenishment conference to raise at least US$14 billion to end HIV, TB and malaria. Investments in the Global Fund have saved more than 27 million lives since 2002. A fully funded replenishment will enable the Global Fund to scale up its effective responses and get the world back on track to fight the three diseases and save lives. Resources from the Global Fund and domestic resources from Governments when put together, will support the building of strong health systems.
Over three decades ago, Alma-Ata Declaration signatories expressed the need for urgent action to protect and promote the health of all people. It was the first international declaration underlining the importance of primary health care. Fast-forward many years later, the World Health Assembly resolution from 2005 emphasized this by saying that everyone should have equitable access to key promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health interventions at an affordable cost, with no subjection to financial hardships. The World Health Report 2010 put forward two messages vital in making progress on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) agenda:
Countries need to ensure that they spend adequately on health
Countries should improve health system efficiencies so that no-one is left behind
As African Civil Society, we are concerned at the low commitments by our governments to increase domestic resources for health. With regard to the three major epidemics – HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria – which are still a threat in Africa; ending them requires sustainable financing to ensure research, development and progress towards UHC.
Today, at least half of the world’s population do not have full coverage of essential healthcare services. In Africa, a staggering 11 million people fall into extreme poverty each year due to out-of-pocket (OOP) health expenses. Unless Governments increase the allocation of resources for health and design intervention to promote equity, persisting gaps in service coverage will remain. On the sidelines of the Africa Health Agenda International; civil society in their statement echoed the need for more political will by African Governments and emphasized the need to invest at least 5% of GDP towards health to make UHC a reality in Africa. In addition, they called for African Governments to mobilise support for a successful 6th Global Fund Replenishment.