Press Release: Everyone needs access to quality health services

Universal health coverage for everyone, everywhere is critical to achievement of sustainable development in Malawi.
Universal health coverage for everyone, everywhere is critical to achievement of sustainable development in Malawi.

Lilongwe, 6th April 2018: On 7th April, on its 70th anniversary, the World Health Organization celebrates World Health Day by drawing global attention to this year’s theme, “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Everyone, Everywhere”. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978 which called for health for all by the year 2000. 

Over the past 70 years, there have been major advances in health and health technology, including life-saving medicines for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, hypertension and diabetes. In the African Region, health outcomes have been improved through strategies such as distributing insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria, and vaccinating against the human papillomavirus which causes cervical cancer.

Access to treatment and essential services has improved. For the first time, more than half of all people living with HIV in Africa (14 million) have access to life-saving HIV treatment. Between 2010 and 2016, new cases of malaria dropped by 20% and there were 37% fewer deaths due to malaria. Moreover, in 2016, the risk of developing pneumonia and meningitis reduced for nearly two thirds of children on the continent because they were vaccinated, compared to only 3% in 2010. In 2012, Africa accounted for over 50% of polio cases globally. The good news is that since August 2016, the Region has not reported a case of wild poliovirus.

The World Health Organization in the African Region is committed to supporting Member States to achieve UHC. We have developed a framework of actions to assist countries in selecting their own path towards achieving both UHC and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A flagship programme geared towards providing integrated and holistic support to countries through implementation support, a regional learning programme for UHC and now is available.

The WHO Regional Office for Africa calls on African leaders to live up to the SDG pledges they made in 2015, and to commit to concrete actions. WHO will continue to support countries to build stronger, more resilient and responsive health systems through UHC to advance #Health for All.

Here in Malawi, World Health Day is an opportunity of the Ministry of Health and development partners to draw nationwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health.

This year’s theme “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Everyone, Everywhere” means ensuring that everyone no matter where they live or who they are can access essential quality health services without facing financial hardship. It is a powerful equalizer that ensures health for all, enhances health security, reduces poverty and promotes gender equality.

Malawi is in support of the UHC as we have a health system that addresses the same. Ministry of Health recently launched the Malawi Health Sector Strategic Plan 2017-2022, which is addressing UHC. Malawi government has outlined the health care interventions available to all Malawians, free at the point of access with the aim of achieving universal free access to quality health care irrespective of ability to pay. In areas where there are no government facilities but private or Christian Health Association facilities, service level agreement has been signed to make sure that people access free services from such a facility.

The country has a well -organized health system that starts with health posts in the communities, dispensaries in the communities, health centers, community hospitals, district hospitals and central hospitals. For one to access health services at each level there is a good referral system from one level to the next. The presence of community health workers known as Health Surveillance Assistants (HSA) is a clear indication that we are indeed in support of the universal health coverage. The intention of the government is to have one HSA for every 1000 people. These health workers help with health promotion, sanitation, hygiene, immunization and family planning services.

If you need more information on this, please contact your nearest health facility or contact the Ministry’s Spokesperson on 0884495839 or malangojoshua@gmail.com or contact WHO Malawi email: afwcomw@who.int