Africa desperately needs more health investment

Africa desperately needs more health investment

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Today we are proud to launch the 2016 Africa DATA Report, which focuses on a critical building block of development investment: health. Investment in the health sector is crucial, since disease and untreated illnesses hinder broader development progress in many low-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Currently, many health outcomes in SSA are the worst in the world. Under-five and maternal mortality rates, the proportion of births not attended by skilled health staff and the number of one-year-olds who have not received a DPT immunisation in SSA are all close to double the world average.

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In addition to overall poor health outcomes, too often one’s economic status within SSA countries determines their health outcome, with large inequalities across indicators. For example, children under five whose families are in the bottom 20% of income earners in Gabon are five times more likely to be malnourished than those whose families are in the top 20% of income earners.

Evidence shows that increased investment in the health sector alleviates poor outcomes and also improves economic returns. A 2007 study of African countries found that for every 10% increase in government health expenditure per capita, a 25% reduction in under-five mortality and a 21% reduction in infant mortality resulted. Yet many African governments have not been able to meet their commitments to invest in the sector. Fifteen years have passed since the Abuja Declaration was signed, in which African Union member governments agreed to allocate at least 15% of their government spending toward health. Currently, however, fewer than half of these countries have met this target in any given year. Moreover, between 2012 and 2014, 32 sub-Saharan African countries spent less than $86 per person on health, which is the recommended level to provide essential health services to citizens.

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If every country spending below $86 per person on health met this target, the additional funds could pay for 545 million additional antiretroviral treatments to fight HIV, 5.4 billion insecticide-treated bed nets to protect people from malaria or 2.6 billion vaccinations to protect children from other diseases in Africa.

Further, investments in health must improve the quality and access to care for the poorest. Social protection programmes such as Kenya’s cash transfer initiative and the utilisation of information and communications technology such as with Malawi’s Health Centre by Phone programme are prime examples of investments in the health sector that can have substantial impact in health outcomes for the poor. To ensure that investments are used for their intended purposes and that health outcomes are monitored and evaluated appropriately, it is also crucial that government budgets are transparent and that health data is accurately captured and reported.

Read more on the 2016 Africa Data Report by following this link

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