March 7, 2019, Kigali: Hon. Marie-Chantal Rwakazina, Mayor of the City of Kigali, called for prioritising women’s health in plans for Universal Health Coverage across Africa, at the closing ceremony of the Africa Health Agenda International Conference, which took place today in Kigali, Rwanda.
“Gender inequality denies women and girls much-needed access to health services. When we developed Rwanda’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) framework, we were mindful of creating gender-centric policies that address barriers in women’s right to health care,” said Hon. Rwakazina.
The closing plenary also saw the official launch of the Women in Global Health Africa Regional Hub, a platform that aims to bring gender equality to global health leadership.
The conference concluded with the release of an official communiqué, providing a blueprint for achieving UHC in Africa. In the declaration, African health leaders called for an increase in domestic financing and greater political prioritisation for evidence-based, cost-effective solutions that would expand access to quality health services and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Eleven parliamentarians from Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia also launched the ‘Kigali UHC communiqué’, committing to strengthen health systems, address health inequities, support community health and ensure universal access to immunization to drive progress on UHC in their countries.
“We are delighted at the diverse participation of leaders from across sectors and are thankful for their contributions to improving health care in Africa. The conference communiqué, released today, calls for increased political commitment to financing UHC, an investment in Africa’s future health workforce, and accountability and inclusion mechanisms allowing people to make their voices heard,” said Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa.
The 3-day conference was co-hosted by Rwanda’s Ministry of Health and Amref Health Africa, to discuss the progress made toward UHC in Africa and accelerate indigenous solutions to address some of the continent’s greatest health challenges.
The conference brought together over 1,500 participants, including health ministers, private sector and civil society leaders, representatives from multilateral organisations, media and vital voices from 49 countries.
On the first day of the conference, President Paul Kagame received the “UHC Presidential Champion” award for his relentless political leadership and accountability to advance UHC in Rwanda, and serving as an example for the region. In the past few years, Rwanda has significantly improved its focus on health care and managed to bring 90% of its population under the popular community-based insurance scheme.
“Thank you Amref Health Africa for this recognition, on my behalf and on behalf of the people of Rwanda. We owe this progress to partners like you who have joined forces with us in our journey to deliver a dignified and healthy life for all Rwandans,” said President Kagame.
Health ministers from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda also shared their countries’ progress on UHC at the meeting and reaffirmed commitment to achieve UHC by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. “I am thankful to my counterparts and political leaders from other countries who have participated in this very important conference. Africa stands at a critical juncture on the path to universal health coverage – it is crucial that we view health system strengthening, expansion of health coverage and improvements in quality of care not as a cost to our nations, but as an investment for the future,” said Hon. Dr Diane Gashumba, Minister of Health, Rwanda.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a sponsor of the conference, brought together leaders from government, NGOs and the private sector, to discuss harnessing the role of community health workers to achieve UHC. In the last six years, GSK has reinvested 20% of its profits generated in the least developed nations.
This has helped support the training of 40,000 health workers and reached 11 million people across 35 countries with improved access to healthcare.
Several announcements were issued during the conference:
• President Paul Kagame received the UHC Presidential Champion award for Rwanda’s progress in advancing health for all. As the chair of the African Union, President Kagame has repeatedly voiced his support for UHC and encouraged leaders to commit to achieving the UHC vision. Ethiopia’s Minister of Health was also recognised for efforts to strengthen Primary Health Care, receiving the UHC Ministerial Champion award.
• Amref Health Africa and Results for Development launched the Strategic Purchasing Africa Resource Center (SPARC), a new resource centre to help African countries get more value for money from health spending. Led by Mr Nathaniel Otoo, the ex-CEO of Ghana’s National Health Insurance Agency and Dr Cheryl Cashin, SPARC-R4D Liaison, the Center will connect a network of regional strategic purchasing experts to match country needs with existing expertise and share practical solutions and new knowledge on strategic purchasing.
• The Women in Global Health (WGH) Africa Regional Hub was launched to drive greater gender equity in global health leadership in Africa. Founded in 2015, WGH works with stakeholders from governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector, among others, to encourage women’s representation in diverse health leadership roles.
• Parliamentarians from Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia launched the ‘Kigali UHC Communiqué’ committing to advance Universal Health Coverage in their countries, including by strengthening health systems, addressing health inequities, supporting community health and ensuring universal access to immunization.
• i-PUSH, an initiative of Amref Health Africa and PharmAccess Foundation, was launched at the conference. The i-Push program aims to leverage mobile technology to directly connect women to health care financing, quality health care and information empowerment.
• The inaugural Excellence in Health Journalism Awards were presented by the Africa Media Network on Health, recognising health champions in the media. The award ceremony honoured journalists who have demonstrated outstanding merit in health reporting, and launched a new curriculum for journalist education in health. Winners included Eunice Omollo, Eunice Kilonzo, Diana Kendi and Nancy Agutu.
The conference consisted of scientific tracks, main plenaries, thematic symposia and interactive workshops on important topics including financing of quality health services, ensuring access to health services in conflict-affected countries and regions, and the centrality of primary health care in the UHC agenda.