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African countries urged to intensify domestic health financing in light of COVID-19 pandemic

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African countries have been urged to intensify domestic health financing agenda so as to control future public health shocks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that affected the health and socioeconomic state of the continent.

The call was made by Rwandan President Paul Kagame while presenting a progress report on the Institutional Reform of the African Union (AU) and on Domestic Health Financing during the 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU, which kicked off virtually on Saturday.

“Without strong national health systems in every country, our continent will remain vulnerable to pandemics,” Kagame told African leaders attending the summit virtually.

The Rwandan president also emphasized the importance of Africa’s domestic health financing agenda, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We need to strengthen our commitment to increase domestic resource mobilization and improve health outcomes. I also urge the strengthening of Africa CDC to allow its autonomy and effectiveness,” Kagame stressed.

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Presenting the continent’s Domestic Health Financing Agenda, Kagame also proposed two major recommendations for the Assembly’s consideration, which he said would “accelerate the implementation of this mandate.”

According to Kagame, the presentation of data in the annual scorecard should be updated to rank countries according to the WHO Service Coverage Index, rather than exclusively in terms of per capita spending.

“This adjustment will more accurately benchmark the efficiency of health spending across different contexts, while also tracking progress toward Universal Health Coverage,” he said.

He also recommended that AUDA-NEPAD (AU’s development agency) be assigned the responsibility of working with partners to create regional platforms to support member states in increasing domestic health financing.

Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa who is also the outgoing Chairperson of the AU, also told the virtual opening session that “we know that COVID-19 is not yet defeated and that there will be difficult times ahead.”

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Ramaphosa, who noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused great suffering and hardship across the continent, also noted that the pandemic is not only a severe health emergency but also a grave economic and social crisis.

The AU summit is being held under the theme of “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want.”

The assembly, among other things, is expected to deliberate and consider the report on the institutional reform of the AU, report on the progress of the AU response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, as well as elections and appointments of the leadership of the AU Commission.

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