With a population of about 1.3 billion, only 48% (approximately 615 million people) of Africa’s population gets the healthcare services they need, a new report said Monday.
Africa’s healthcare systems are poorly attuned to meet the needs of the poor, the disabled and other vulnerable groups, with coverage of essential healthcare services in Africa decidedly low, said the report.
But the 21st century has seen African leaders show stronger political will to achieve universal health care.
The State of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Africa Report by the independent Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) Commission maps the progress of African countries towards their UHC goals.
Quality of healthcare services provided in African countries is also low and is considered the poorest performing indicator of the UHC – when quality of healthcare services is considered, service coverage scores across African countries are even lower, according to the report.
The report showed that coverage of essential services needed by women and girls in Africa is low, with data indicating that between 2015 to 2019, only 49% of African women had their demand for family planning satisfied by modern methods.
But on a positive note, although the proportion of individuals that are pushed into poverty due to out-of-pocket healthcare payments each year is high, at 15 million people (or 1.4% of the continent’s population), the number is gradually falling.
The report suggested political will and well-trained and competent health professionals among the key opportunities that African countries can leverage to accelerate progress towards the UHC.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director general, called on leaders to boost their nations’ capacities to enhance disease prevention and preparedness to mitigate the impact of disease outbreaks through greater political commitment.
The report was released on the first day of African-led biennial global health meeting on March 8-10, co-convened virtually by Africa CDC and Amref Health Africa, a health development organization.
COVID-19 and health system gaps
“The COVID-19 pandemic has pointed out the glaring gaps in African – and global – health systems and made a strong case for the urgent achievement of UHC,” said Githinji Gitahi, the global chief executive of Amref Health Africa.
“While progress towards achieving Health for All has been slow, the current reality has reinvigorated countries’ efforts to ensure better access to quality, affordable healthcare.”
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta outlined priority areas African countries need to consider, such as giving greater priority to primary healthcare, making healthcare more affordable, and strengthening health sector collaboration.
To ensure steady progress towards UHC, the report also urged the reorienting of healthcare systems and health system priorities as well as investing in health technologies to enhance the performance of all health system functions.
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