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Africa — Achieving health coverage without compromising on quality

Momentum for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Africa is building and many African countries have already integrated UHC into their national health strategies. But with 11 million Africans pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket health expenses, how can Africa achieve UHC which delivers a quality package of care for people living in Africa?

The UHC debate was buzzing in Rwanda’s capital Kigali this week during one of the largest health gatherings in Africa, the Africa Health Agenda International conference 2019.  Co-hosted by the Ministry of Health of Rwanda and the African Medical and Research Foundation (Amref Health Africa), 1500 health leaders shared new ideas and home-grown solutions to the continent’s most pressing health challenges.

Participants discussed the need for countries to embrace the concept of UHC and do their utmost to make it work. They stressed that good health allows children to learn and adults to contribute to societies and the economy. They also underscored that it can allow people to emerge from poverty and provides the basis for long-term economic security, essential for the future of the continent.

Host country President, Paul Kagame was awarded the honour of excellence in recognition of his political leadership on UHC. In a tweet he thanked Amref saying,

“We owe this progress to partners like you who have joined forces with us in our journey to deliver a dignified and healthy life for all Rwandans.”

The Minister of Health of Ethiopia also received an award for Ethiopia’s work in promoting primary health care.

Ensuring that everyone has access to basic health services is a challenge and the key to the success of UHC will be ensuring that the quality of services is good enough to improve the health of the people who access them.

“We need to track the impact of UHC,” said Michel Sidibé, co-moderating a high-level ministerial panel. “Coverage is not enough, we need to be delivering quality, affordable, accessible services to all. The ultimate measure of success for UHC will be whether the poorest, the marginalized and the most vulnerable people are able to benefit.”

During the conference Mr Sidibé participated in a townhall with young people. He spoke to them about their meaningful engagement in the UHC process saying that young people need to ‘claim and own the space.’ He also talked to civil society groups about the remarkable progress towards achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment targets across Africa and of the critical need of their continued engagement on HIV within UHC.

The first ever United Nations High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage will take place on 23 September 2019 during the United Nations General Assembly under the theme ‘Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World.’