African governments will miss health development goals unless spending prioritises the poorest, most vulnerable groups, One Campaign has warned.
In its Africa DATA Report launched on Thursday, the group noted that while investments in the health sector by African governments have seen significant improvements in life expectancy and general overall health, the continent’s poorest of 20% still “face the worst health outcomes as governments continue to under-invest in the health sector.”
The report notes that “at current public health investment levels, sub-Saharan Africa will not meet key health SDG targets by 2030.
The report titled “Health Financing, Outcomes, and Inequality in sub-Saharan Africa,” cautions that governments must ensure investments in health reach the poorest and most vulnerable groups and proposes innovative uses of technology and social protection programmes.
According to the report, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of child mortality, and faces the highest risk of malaria, accounting for roughly 90% of cases and deaths globally.
Income inequality has also had a substantial effect in the region as progress in health outcomes in key areas has been faster for the wealthy compared to the poor.
“In the 15 years since the Abuja Declaration, in which African governments committed to spend 15% of their budgets towards health, less than half of these African countries have met this target in any given year.
“On average, between 2012 and 2014, only Malawi, Swaziland, and Ethiopia met this target. Crucially, investing in health has been shown to save lives and grow the economy.
“A study found that for every 10% increase in government health expenditure per capita, there has been a 25% reduction in under-five mortality and a 21% reduction in infant mortality.
“A 2013 study found that, between 2000 and 2011, upwards of 5.7% of GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa was attributable to improved health. Also, a recent 2016 study showed that for every US dollar invested in immunising children in low and middle-income countries, $16 is expected to be saved in healthcare costs in the future.”
To address the challenge, ONE calls on African governments to: “Ensure that the poorest 20% of the population are prioritised in health interventions.
“Introduce and scale up social protection programmes that benefit the poorest and most vulnerable, such as child care grants and cash-transfers.
“Utilise information and communications technology (ICT) and management information systems (MIS) to reach the poorest and most vulnerable, and to improve access to health services and service delivery and “make their budgets transparent and procurement processes open to close out opportunities for corruption,” as well as “invest in health data collection and systems so that outcomes can be monitored and evaluated.”