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WHO forum pitches for universal health care in Africa

By AFP

Added 27th March 2019 05:12 PM

Countries south of the Sahara account for roughly half of the five million children around the world who each year die before their fifth birthday,

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Countries south of the Sahara account for roughly half of the five million children around the world who each year die before their fifth birthday,

Experts, officials, and NGOs from 47 countries gathered in Cape Verde on Tuesday for a three-day UN forum on achieving the goal of universal health coverage in Africa.
 
Countries south of the Sahara account for roughly half of the five million children around the world who each year die before their fifth birthday, while 40 percent of people with the AIDS virus in Africa still do not have access to HIV drugs.
 
"Although much effort has been invested in improving the functioning of health systems in the region, more still remains to be done," said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization's regional director for Africa.
 
More than 750 people are attending the meeting in the capital Praia, which follows a first gathering in Rwanda in 2017.
 
Universal health coverage is poor or absent across Africa, experts say, a view supported by the lack of statistics about the issue.
 
In 2001, African Union countries pledged to allot at least 15 percent of their annual budget to health.
 
But very few -- only four by 2014, according to a 2016 World Bank report -- have achieved this goal.
 
Countries deemed high performers include Cape Verde, where 40 percent of the population have health and unemployment coverage, and Rwanda, where health insurance premiums cost around three dollars (2.5 euros) a year.
 
South Africa last year unveiled a health insurance scheme co-financed by employers and employees that is scheduled to be operational in 2026.
 
In Ivory Coast, universal health coverage, promised since 2015, should take effect in the coming months, officials said.
 
In Kenya, only around a fifth of the population has health insurance -- in December, the government launched a programme for nationwide coverage from 2022.
 
Development specialists say out-of-pocket expenditure for health is a major source of impoverishment in Africa.
 
According to the World Bank report, these expenditures rose from $15 per head in 1995 to $38 in 2014, a rise that meant another 11 million Africans were falling into poverty each year.

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