Despite economic growth access to health still a challenge – Dr. Kaseba

KasebaFIRST Lady Dr Christine Kaseba says it is harsh reality that most countries in sub-Saharan Africa are still contemplating on how to meet the MDGs especially on poverty, maternal and child health barely two years before 2015.

Delivering a key note address today during the ongoing GBCHealth Africa Regional Conference 2013 whose theme is “Accelerating Action Toward Achieving MDGs”, in Midrand, South Africa, Dr Kaseba said despite substantial economic growth in Africa over the last few decades, access to affordable health care has remained one of the greatest challenges to sustained economic development.

She said Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 11 percent of the world’s population, yet bears 24 percent of the global disease burden and commands less than one percent of global health expenditure.

“It is a harsh reality that with less than two years to go before 2015, most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are contemplating on how they can meet the MDG targets especially those targeting poverty, maternal and child health,” Dr Kaseba said. “What is more challenging is also what needs to change to move beyond 2015 and implement quality universal health coverage.”

Dr Kaseba said sustainable development and social development is intrinsically linked to the wellbeing of communities because healthy communities lead to healthy markets.

She called for concerted and integrated long term efforts from the private sector to partner with government, saying while it was the major responsibility for governments to provide sound healthcare to citizens, it could not do so alone.
Dr Kaseba said governments need to create a favorable environment in legal and regulatory, operational and financial areas to get the private sector into partnerships.

“The correct business environment will generate reassurance and incentives. Private companies should also be proactive and not just wait for an official invitation,” Dr Kaseba said. “I urge you to conduct analyses and also share market intelligence with the public sector.”

Dr Kaseba said she believed the private sector had the capacity to act strategically for the long term even if it meant absorbing some costs in the short term.

She cited Barclays Bank Zambia and  Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) as having formed a new partnership combing their skills and expertise to help remove financial barriers to health care access, while supporting small business development and job creation.

Dr Kaseba said working with government and other stakeholders, the programme would explore how to build cost effective sector medicine supply chain, establish small enterprise health outlets, test affordable micro health insurance and embedded health care education in existing community finance networks.

She appealed to the emotion of participants at the conference and beyond to be proactive in addressing the many health and other challenges that causes people shame, degradation and humiliation.

And Zimbabwe’s Health Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa mentioned some of the pillars urgently required in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) health sector as human resource, infrastructure, drugs and medicines, transport and communication and addressing the disease burden.

He said governments should take a leading role in running the health sector on which other partners should follow, and called for increased accountability from the NGOs.
Dr Parirenyatwa revealed that SADC was looking and starting to manufacture drugs at regional level by 2018, and therefore called for the private sector to utilize such opportunities.
“We are also hoping that in 2018 we shall have a common SADC currency…we want to have a central bank by 2018, customs union and monetary union,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.

Issued by: Patson Chilemba

Press Secretary – High Commission of the Republic of Zambia to South Africa