The quest to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) in Africa has gained momentum despite COVID-19 related disruptions, an expert said on Friday. Rispah Walumbe, Health Policy Advisor at Nairobi-based Amref Health Africa said the continent has prioritized expanding access to quality and affordable healthcare services to all citizens as a means to boost resilience against future pandemics.
“The state of universal health coverage in Africa is optimistic. The continent is moving towards a strategic direction guided by African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 on socio-economic transformation,” said Walumbe. She spoke during a virtual briefing in Nairobi ahead of the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) organized by Amref Health Africa and partners on March 8-10.
The three-day biennial forum to be held virtually will discuss innovative strategies that can be harnessed to accelerate progress towards achieving universal health coverage in Africa and revitalize action on killer diseases. Walumbe said that delegates including policymakers, donors, scholars and grassroots advocates will discuss interventions that can be scaled up to realize universal health coverage goals in the continent.
“The conference will provide a platform to discuss universal health coverage in a tangible and forward-looking approach. There will be conversations around vaccine equity and how to mitigate future health challenges,” said Walumbe. She said that delegates will explore home-grown technologies and innovations that can be harnessed to strengthen health security in Africa in the light of COVID-19 pandemic.
“The conference will break down in fine details what universal health coverage means for the continent and how to sustain its positive impact,” said Walumbe.
She said that progress towards the realization of universal health coverage goals varied among African countries, adding that they were united in their quest to achieve the core tenets of equity, quality and affordability in healthcare services. Walumbe said that the COVID-19 pandemic had slowed down the roll-out of universal health coverage in Africa, adding that it also reawakened policymakers and financiers on the need to re-engineer health systems.
“The pandemic made countries have a better perspective on healthcare. It was a wake-up call on the need for African countries to have health systems that are strong and resilient,” said Walumbe. She said the pandemic ignited the urgency to promote domestic financing towards the African health sector amid dwindling external support.
According to Walumbe, African governments should leverage on progressive policies, domestic resource mobilization, youth-led innovations and sharing of global best practices to reinvent health care services in a pandemic era.
“It is possible to achieve universal health coverage if governments utilize available expertise, apply best practices that have worked elsewhere, sustain financing and political commitment,” said Walumbe.