PMNCH/Africa Public Health Alliance press release: African health financing
14 April 2011 | Nairobi, Kenya - African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development have committed to increase health spending, noting the importance of investing in human development and health in particular to stimulate and sustain economic growth and development.
The agreement came at a recent joint conference of African Union ministers of finance, planning and economic affairs, and the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, held on 28 - 29 March in Addis Ababa. At the meeting, officials and African government representatives committed to improving health spending on the continent.
Participants at the meeting noted that the importance of investing in human development broadly and health more specifically was a prerequisite for sustainable and equitable development.
Africa currently suffers a disproportionate burden of ill health. With only 11% of the world’s population, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 53% of maternal deaths, 50% of under-five child deaths and 67% of HIV/Aids cases.
Experts attribute the current weak health systems to insufficient and inefficient health spending among most African countries. They lament that only 32 out of the 53 African countries invest less than the WHO-recommended US$40 per person on health. Poor social and physical infrastructure, political crises, lack of partner alignment in their health and development assistance efforts and poor regional production capacity also contribute to suboptimal health of populations.
However opportunities do exist. The continent has demonstrated strong political will towards health, exemplified by the 2001 Head of State Abuja Declaration that committed governments to increasing health spending to 15% of national budgets and the 2010 Head of State Declaration on Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa. While only 6 countries have achieved the 15% target, many countries have increased their health spending and development assistance to the health sector has been boosted. Many countries have also undertaken health care reforms.
The meeting concluded with ministers committing to “increase resources for health financing and strengthen dialogue and partnership with ministries of health to ensure better understanding of health needs, budgeting and planning requirements and improved use of resources for strengthening health system.” In addition, the ministers also committed to exploring other strategies for funding health care, including health insurance, risk-pooling public-private partnerships and leveraging opportunities and existing commitments.
At various sessions during the Joint Ministerial Conference, leading African policy makers also stressed the importance of investment in human development.