African Union Ministers and UN Commission adopt resolution on health
21 MARCH 2011 | ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA - The fourth joint annual meeting of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic development, held in Addis Ababa from 24-29 March 2011 adopted a resolution on health financing.
The resolution which acknowledged various African Union head of state commitments to increase health financing and to improve the health outcomes of their populations called for:
- Improved member state investment in health – focusing on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of spending;
- Increased health spending through the use of innovative mechanisms such as debt relief private public partnerships and taxation (for example of harmful products);
- Improved coordination of efforts that support national health priorities;
- Intersectoral synergies;
- Accountability mechanisms in the management of health resources; and
- Development partner fulfillment of assistance commitments in line with the principles of the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action.
The adoption of the resolution followed a plenary discussion by health experts on progress towards achieving the Abuja targets. A presentation made by Dr Ademola Olajide, Head of the African Union Division of Health, Nutrition and Population, highlighted that only six countries to date have met the target and that a number of countries investing higher levels of resources in health are still lagging on progress to achieve the MDGs because of poor status of social determinants of health.
The presentation recommended that governments mobilize additional resources by leveraging the private sector, installing and strengthening risk pooling mechanisms; spend resources more efficiently by improving donor coordination and pushing for national budget support and using mechanisms such as performance based financing and strengthen the governance of the health sector by strengthening the evidence base and improving management and oversight of health financing. Discussions among country delegations noted a strong focus on the need for increased efficiency in health spending.
Parallel session on health financing
A parallel session during the meeting of Ministers also tackled health financing. Chaired by AU Commissioner of Social Affairs Bience Gawanas and Regional director of WHO, Dr Luis Sambo, the session allowed for a presentation of the case for investing for health in Africa, developed by the Harmonization for Health in Africa Group and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. The presentation, in addition to reiterating some of the mechanisms for improved health financing efficiency, outlined the social and economic benefits of investing in health, pointing to the fact that an average additional investment of between US$21 to US$36 per capita in the region could save the lives of over 3 million people in 2015 alone, 90% of which are women and children and yield a gain in productivity of US$100 billion.
The ensuing panel and participant discussions noted an understanding of the importance of investing in human development while highlighting constraints faced by ministries of finance in allocating scarce resources to ministries. Ministries of finance noted the importance of improving evidence based planning and budgeting, promoting intersectoral collaboration and improving regional capacity to produce health commodities. Ministries of health on the other hand noted a dependence on donor funding for health and expressed concern at the low levels of health financing, especially in time of volatile donor funding.
These plenary and panel discussions were supplemented by a Ministerial Dinner on the theme of “Linking Economic Growth to Health and Development Investments in Africa” organized by Roll Back Malaria, the Global Fund, GAVI, the PMNCH, UNAIDS and The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.