13 July 2015
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Efforts to increase domestic investment in health programs have taken a prominent spot at the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week.
African leaders, including Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, addressed a session today focused on the need to invest more in health, attended by Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chair of the Africa Union Commission, and others.
"African countries must find more ways to invest more into health," said Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. "This is fundamental. The transformation of our economies and our countries will never be complete without claiming victory over diseases."
Several partners in global health spoke about the urgency and scale needed for greater investment.
"To accelerate the end of these epidemics, global health partners must invest ambitiously," said Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund. "We need to build resilient and sustainable systems for health, and we can only get there by sharing responsibility and working together."
Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, and Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission, also addressed the meeting.
Boosting domestic investments in health is a priority that was articulated by the Abuja Declaration of 2001, when African countries pledged to boost government funding for health to at least 15 percent of their annual budget. Many countries on the continent are yet to achieve that target.
Still, a lot of progress has been made in domestic investments in health. For instance, Africa is mobilizing more domestic resources in health than foreign development investments. In the last four years, African countries have increased their domestic resources to respond to HIV by 150 percent.
Failure to sustain and increase domestic finances would result in losing the historic opportunity to defeat diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, which are now in retreat. Besides increasing countries' ability to respond to diseases and outbreaks, increased domestic resources will foster country ownership and improve sustainability of country programs.
At a gathering on 12 July, the Global Fund Advocates Network (GFAN) urged implementing countries to invest more vigorously in health, and also urged donor countries to commit more money to health in the next 15 years to accelerate gains against diseases.
Yvonne Chaka Chaka, a musical star from South Africa and a Goodwill Ambassador for Roll Back Malaria, said that while international donors have a responsibility to continue investing in health, countries heavily burdened by diseases must take up ownership of managing diseases affecting their citizens.
"When you are always asking for help, it diminishes your dignity," Chaka Chaka said.
Maurine Murenga, a GFAN advocate, said that despite the great progress made in the last decade, there are still many quality health programs that remain unfunded.
"Before we had better access to HIV treatment, we used to be supported to die gracefully, and to write wills to our children," she said. "Since I did not have property to leave my son, I wrote a letter apologizing for infecting him with HIV."
"Now I have another son whom I got after accessing HIV treatment, who is HIV negative and whom I do not have to write that kind of letter. Unfortunately, there are still too many people who can't benefit from HIV treatment and prevention, like I did, because of lack of enough funding."