Conference on African Health Financing
4-5 JULY 2012 | TUNIS
WHO DIrector-General addresses Africa’s ministers of health and finance
WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan stressed the critical need for strong accountability measures in domestic health financing in her address to health and finance ministers gathered in Tunis, Tunisia from 4-5 July 2012 to map out strategies for accelerating progress toward the health-related Millennium Development Goals.
Even four years beyond the initial shock of the 2008 financial crisis, Dr Chan cautioned the consequences still linger.
"Money is tight, and spending is careful and cautious. Everyone wants value for money," she said. "Donors demand it. They are under intense domestic pressure, from the public and parliamentarians, to show that taxpayer’s money invested in health development is bringing results."
However, she said, when the financial crisis hit in 2008, African economies suffered less than those in most other parts of the world and economic growth remained strong, giving the continent the chance to make up for the donor shortfall with strengthened health financing from within.
"The banks tell us that the African continent is now on a path to sustained growth and poverty reduction. More and more African countries are being ranked as middle-income countries," she said. "Policy-makers increasingly recognize that improved health is a prerequisite for sustainable development. They recognize that the health sector, when properly managed, is an important source of economic growth and employment."
But she lamented the fact that health financing efforts are still struggling to ensure they are achieving maximum value.
"As you have noted, health planning and budgeting have not always been based on evidence and conditioned by an analysis of country-specific constraints to service delivery," she said. "I can think of at least one reason why: the absence of solid data for measuring results and monitoring progress. Only a small number of African countries have reliable systems of vital registration and reliable cause-of-death statistics. Only a minority of countries routinely track how much is spent on health and what this money achieves."
Fortunately, she said, she has begun to see strengthening systems for health information and accountability, that is, tracking resources and results, as an increasingly explicit objective for a growing number of health initiatives.
"Accountability is important to show progress, to show value for money and encourage further investment in health," she said. "I respect your willingness to take a frank look at these problems and work together towards some solutions."