Good health is a pre-requisite for sustainable development, says WHO Director-General

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan has underscored the importance of health as a prerequisite for sustainable development.

She was speaking at the official opening of the high-level Ministerial conference on health financing: Value for Money, Sustainability and Accountability in the Health Sector which is taking place in Tunis, Tunisia, from 4-5 July 2012.

More than 300 participants comprising Ministers of Health, Ministers of Finance and their representatives, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, private sector enterprises and representatives of bilateral and multilateral development partners are attending the conference organized by member agencies of the Harmonization for Health in Africa mechanism (HHA).

The event was officially opened by His Excellency Mr Hamadi Jebali, Prime Minister of Tunisia who called on African governments to meet their commitment to provide health for all.

In her remarks, Dr Chan noted that more and more African countries are being branded as middle-income countries and there is growing recognition by policy makers that improved health is a prerequisite for sustainable development. They recognize that the health sector when properly managed is important source of economic growth

The Director-General said: "What we must all face now is stagnation, probably even a decline in external funds made available for health development. This makes commitment of domestic funds for health and their wise use all the more important".

Dr Chan reminded delegates that more than a decade after the adoption of the landmark Abuja Declaration in April 2001, only six countries in the African continent have allocated 15% or more of their national budget to health. Even more disturbing is the fact that eleven countries are investing a mere $5 or less per person per year in health which is far less than the amount of money needed to care for those in need of health.

"This level of funding leaves the health system impoverished and does nothing to tackle the crippling shortage of health care workers that affect Africa most acutely. It impedes economic progress, puts a brake on development and keeps poor people as well as poor nations trapped in a cycle of poverty", she added.

She made a strong appeal to Finance Ministers and development partners to support the health sector citing that there is good economic case for this. The WHO Director-General underscored the importance cross-sectoral collaboration to identify ways of improving efficiency, value for money and accountability. She also placed emphasis on the need for an efficient system of health information to support decision making.

Speaking at the event, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Donald Kaberuka observed that although the African continent has made some progress, including improvement of some health indicators and this progress needs to be sustained. He called on delegates to seriously think about value for money and address inefficiencies in the health sector and how to sustain high impact interventions that can no longer be financed by development aid.

"We need to think about equity issues, access to coverage as we expand health services. It doesn't have to be spending more. It has to be spending more equitably. We cannot afford to make our systems to be inequitable because lack of inclusiveness, lack of equity, lack of access results in frustration and lack of sustainability," said Dr Kaberuka.

He urged delegates to take advantage of the technological wave and best practices across the world to improve health. He also reiterated AfDB's commitment to assist countries in their health development agenda.

The two-day conference is expected to end with the adoption of the Tunis Declaration on Value for Money, Sustainability and Accountability in the Health Sector.

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For more information, please contact:

Mr Collins Boakye-Agyemang Acting Programme Manager, Communications Advocacy and Media e-mail: Cette adresse email est protégée contre les robots des spammeurs, vous devez activer Javascript pour la voir.

Ms Besma Bargaoui, Communication Assistant WHO Tunisia. e-mail: Cette adresse email est protégée contre les robots des spammeurs, vous devez activer Javascript pour la voir.

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Related links:

Dr Margaret Chan addresses Africa's ministers of health and finance

Keynote address by Dr L.G. Sambo, Regional Director of WHO Regional Office for Africa at the Conference of Ministers of Finance and Health