29 August 2012

Liberia: National Health Insurance for Liberia

Photo: Tiggy Ridley/IRIN
A pregnant woman is given a routine check-up at a donor-funded health clinic in Monrovia.

A National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), a compulsory medical premium intended for citizens to insure their lives, is expected to come into force in the country.

If approved by the Liberian Legislature, the country will become the second in the sub-region after Ghana and third on the continent after Rwanda to do so. The Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Health, Dr. Peter Coleman, who made the disclosure, said it would afford Liberians the opportunity to have access to basic health needs.

He spoke Tuesday in Monrovia during the formal launch of the National Health Advocacy Network of Liberia (NHANL), a conglomeration of civil society organizations and community-based health-related organizations. NHANL is a branch of the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO).

"There is a need for adequate resource budget-support to the health needs of our people; we urged the government and its partners to allot 15 percent to health. But, we need to manage properly what we have," he noted.

"Health is a fundamental human right; therefore, the people have the right to demand for it from their government because for the past 3 to 4 years, 7 to 8 percent was allotted to health," Coleman noted.

The former Health Minister of Liberia during Charles Taylor and Gyude Bryant regimes recounted the continent's health woes with 32 of the 53 nations in Africa spending less than US$34.00 on health, Liberia being no exception.

"In 2001 in Abuja, Nigeria, African Heads of States and Governments committed themselves to allot 15 percent of their national budgets to health; Until now, 2 out of the 53 countries have complied, which are South Africa and Rwanda," Coleman said He said in Africa, 82% deaths are related to malaria; 76% to HIV/AIDs; 46% to childhood; while 52 % accounts for many other diseases.

"Investment in the health sector is crucial for every government to make as Africa need to increase access to health but the need for domestic advocacy for health can be overemphasized," Coleman said.

Deputizing for Health Minister Walter Gwenigale, Deputy Health Minister and Chief Medical Officer Liberia, Bernice Dahn described health as a basic right which everybody must have.

"What right do we have as government officials that we cannot channel our own budget for the treatment of our people as our people are left alone," Dahn noted.

In a cautioned statement, Dahn said, "As you advocate for us to get more money, advocate for us to use it wisely."

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