The attainment of universal health coverage (UHC) in Africa is in peril due to disruptions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and inadequate financing, a new report has said.
According to the State of Universal Health Coverage in Africa report, only 48 percent of the continent’s population, or about 615 million people, have been able to access quality healthcare services as countries grapple with negative impacts of the pandemic that include income losses.
The report was launched in Nairobi on Monday, on the sidelines of the 2021 Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC), taking place virtually on March 8-10.
“The COVID-9 pandemic has pointed at glaring gaps in African and global health systems and made a strong case for the urgent achievement of UHC,” said Githinji Gitahi, CEO of Nairobi-based Amref Health Africa.
The report should serve as a wake-up call for governments, donors and industry to channel additional resources toward the health-for-all agenda, he said.
“Through the State of UHC in Africa report, we are hoping to provide a realistic roadmap that will guide African countries on their journeys to UHC and ramp up greater multi-stakeholder collaboration across the continent, so that we can move from rhetoric to sustained action,” Gitahi said.
A 19-member AHAIC commission compiled the report to take stock of progress the continent has achieved toward attaining health-for-all goals.
Colonial legacy, outdated policies, low technology adoption, poverty, and a rising disease burden are derailing efforts to ensure all citizens in Africa have access to quality healthcare services, the report said.
It said only 49 percent of African women and girls had access to modern contraceptives in 2015-2019, stressing that policy reforms, political goodwill, innovations, and robust investments are required to hasten progress toward attaining health-for-all goals in the continent.
“The health strengthening efforts made in response to COVID-19 provide an opportunity for African countries to make comprehensive investments in health that will strengthen the foundation for UHC,” the report said.
Africa can leverage on demographic dividend, establishment of a continental free trade area, and a large pool of trained workforce to revamp healthcare systems, it said.