As the world celebrates the World Health Day today, World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed the need for everyone to access health services.
According to a statement released by WHO, universal health coverage for everyone, everywhere is critical to achieving sustainable development in Malawi.
“Over the past 70 years, there have been major advances in health and health technology, including life-saving medicines for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, hypertension and diabetes. In the African Region, health outcomes have been improved through strategies such as distributing insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria, and vaccinating against the human papillomavirus which causes cervical cancer,” it states.
WHO also notes that treatment and essential services have improved since for the first time, more than half of all people living with HIV in Africa (14 million) have access to life-saving HIV treatment.
Between 2010 and 2016, new cases of malaria dropped by 20% and there were 37% fewer deaths due to malaria while the risk of developing pneumonia and meningitis reduced for nearly two thirds of children on the continent because they were vaccinated, compared to only 3% in 2010.
“In 2012, Africa accounted for over 50% of polio cases globally. The good news is that since August 2016, the Region has not reported a case of wild poliovirus,” says the statement.
WHO has since expressed it’s commitment to supporting Member States in the African Region to achieve UHC.
“We have developed a framework of actions to assist countries in selecting their own path towards achieving both UHC and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A flagship programme geared towards providing integrated and holistic support to countries through implementation support, a regional learning programme for UHC is now available,” it says.
WHO has called on African leaders to live up to the SDG pledges they made in 2015, and to commit to concrete actions.
Here in Malawi, World Health Day is an opportunity of the Ministry for Health and development partners to draw nationwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health.
This year’s theme “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Everyone, Everywhere” means ensuring that everyone no matter where they live or who they are can access essential quality health services without facing financial hardship.
According to WHO, it is a powerful equalizer that ensures health for all, enhances health security, reduces poverty and promotes gender equality.
Ministry of Health recently launched the Malawi Health Sector Strategic Plan 2017-2022, which is addressing UHC.
Malawi government has also outlined the health care interventions available to all Malawians, free at the point of access with the aim of achieving universal free access to quality health care irrespective of ability to pay.
In areas where there are no government facilities but private or Christian Health Association facilities, service level agreement has been signed to make sure that people access free services from such a facility.
The country has a well organized health system that starts with health posts in the communities, dispensaries in the communities, health centers, community hospitals, district hospitals and central hospitals.
For one to access health services at each level there is a good referral system from one level to the next.
The presence of community health workers known as Health Surveillance Assistants (HSA) is also a clear indication that Malawi is indeed in support of the universal health coverage.
These health workers help with health promotion, sanitation, hygiene, immunization and family planning services.