Africa Must Invest in its Health System

Published on 21st February 2012

Africa South of the Sahara still  faces a grim scenario with respect to the health of its people.  The region - a home to 12 percent of the world’s population – accounts for 22 percent of the total global disease burden and more than 68 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS.  Its poor health status is mirrored by crises in health financing and human resources for health: it has only 2 percent of the global health workforce and only 1 percent of the world’s health expenditures. 

Despite the region's Heads of State and Government pledge to allocate 15% of their national budgets to health, not many of them have made significant progress. It is projected that most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa will not meet the World Health Organization’s Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (CMH) target even by 2020,  which demands that the continent’s per capita spending on health ($23) be increased by 68 %.

Richly endowed with physical and intellectual resources, Africa has the potential to change its predicament for the better. Africa's heavy reliance on donor funding for crucial sectors such as health is not only precarious, but may lead to embarrassing scenarios. Plagued by financial constraints in the Eurozone and US for example,  US President Barrack Obama has proposed a 44% cut in the State Department’s global health account for Kenya, a country that  relies on donors to fund up to 75% of its HIV/AIDS programmes. Other European countries might follow a similar trend in other sectors.

Developed countries jealously guard against compromising the well-being of their citizens. That is why they take keen interest on environmental health and food safety standards. Africa must borrow a leaf from them and embark on domestic resource mobilization capacity, prudence and innovative approaches to the challenges facing the continent. Surrendering the health infrastructure to external benefactors is prescribing a death sentence to the citizenry. Worse still, a sickly population will not contribute significantly to the continent’s productivity. It is time the continent's leaders and citizenry invested in their health.

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