Tanzania: Samia - Universal Health Inevitable

VICE-PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan has assured the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states that Tanzania is committed to execute the universal health coverage (UHC).

She said the country has prioritised the strengthening of health infrastructures and systems to attain the goal.

The assurance has come just a month since the government signed the political commitment on UHC during the UN General Assembly's High Level Meeting on UHC in September this year.

"We will specifically ensure that health services are offered considering quality and geographical balance... we are determined to put in place systems that will enable citizens to afford health service costs," explained the vice president.

She was speaking at the official opening of the joint meeting of SADC ministers of health and ministers responsible for HIV and Aids in Dar es Salaam. Among other things, the meeting discussed and endorsed recommendations by the SADC senior officials in charge of health and HIV converged for two days in the city.

Part of areas in line with UHC, Ms Samia told the conference, was construction of health centres, countrywide.

In the period between 2016 and this year, the government has built over 350 new health facilities at ward level in different parts of the country and 67 others at district level.

The budget for the health sector from the domestic revenues has increased from a mere 30bn/- in 2015/16 fiscal year to 260bn/- in this financial year.

The government through the Medical Store Department has established pooled procurement systems for medicines and medical devices to improve efficiency and reduce costs of drug supplies to SADC member states.

Ms Samia challenged SADC ministers responsible for health and HIV/Aids to deeply look at achievements made in the region and identify challenges facing the countries and come up with strategies that will lead to achievement of health programmes, nationally and regionally.

Earlier, SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Tax commended SADC Heads of State and Governments for adopting the global political declaration on UHC during the recent UN high level meeting on UHC.

UN Secretary General António Guterres has described the political declaration as "The most comprehensive agreement ever reached on global health." "It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to ensure that the declaration is implemented for the benefits of SADC people," Dr Tax remarked.

She said one of the most important aspects in realising UHC is for SADC members to ensure that while providing quality health services, the burden of high spending on health care is also minimised.

"Without this crucial consideration, there is a risk that the high costs to access health care could potentially drive an increasing number of our people into poverty due to exorbitant out-of-pocket health care costs, which will further hamper the attainment of the SADC we want, where economic well-being, improved standards of living and quality of life, among others, are guaranteed," she stated.

WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) Director Dr Rebecca Moeti insisted that the commitment be translated into actions. She commended the SADC countries for making several initiatives to address health challenges.

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