On 9 April 2019 Zambia commemorated the World Health Day under the global theme of Universal Health Coverage. The commemoration had a particular focus on Primary Health Care as a means for advancing progress on achieving the 2030 SDG target on Universal Health Coverage under Goal number 3 on health. The commemoration was held under the local theme: “Universal Health Coverage, my responsibility”. The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the WHO Country Office and with the support of the European Union convened a partners and stakeholder’s forum whose aim was to highlight progress made in moving towards Universal Health Coverage and identify gaps that needed to be addressed. The forum also served as a platform for sensitizing partners and stakeholders on the commitments which were made on Primary Health Care in the Astana Declaration of 2018.
In his statement to mark the World Health Day, the WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita said that Zambia was making steady progress towards Universal Health Coverage by bringing quality healthcare services as close to the population as possible and introducing national health insurance. He however emphasized the urgent need for the country to scale up interventions to reduce the burden of disease. Dr. Bakyaita said that the 2018 Declaration of Astana charted a course to achieve Universal Health Coverage and came amid a growing global movement for greater investment in Primary Health Care. He said that the World Health Organisation was supporting Zambia to re-align its health services and to make strategic shifts to attain UHC and SDGs.
At the same occasion, Esther Bouma , Attaché – Manager Health and Social Sector Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Zambia and COMESA stated that half the world’s population did not have access to health care services while more than 100 million people were pushed into extreme poverty as a result of health care costs. She commended the Ministry of Health for passing the health insurance bill and stated that the bigger challenge was to move towards working out and implementing the benefit package . She also emphasized the importance of health promotion, treatment and rehabilitative services in improving Primary Health Care and that the European Union was committed to supporting the government in moving towards Universal Health Coverage.
Dr. Kennedy Malama , Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health stated that the theme of the World Health Day on Universal Health Coverage was timely because with eleven years remaining before 2030, there was need to accelerate efforts to achieve the UHC SDG target under goal number 3 on health . He called upon all stakeholders to work together with the Ministry of Health in moving towards the UHC target. “ Let us join hands in investing in health systems” he said. Dr. Malama said that it was time to increase the scope, coverage and quality of health services and to reduce direct costs to the people. He also emphasized the need to focus attention on improving the key pillars of UHC which included human resources for health, essential drugs supply chain, health information management systems, public health security, leadership and governance and research.
The participants at the forum included representatives from the government ministries and departments, Donor Agencies, multilateral and bilateral institutions, Un Agencies, local and international Non- governmental organisations, associations, private institutions, research institutions and the media.