Integrated people-centered Primary Health Care approach will help African countries to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), said Prof. Francis Omaswa, the Executive Director at the African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST).
“We need to institutionalize health systems which reach households. UHC is about leaving no one behind. But if you want to translate it into practical terms, it is about how the health system can reach all people in the country,” said Prof. Omaswa.
He made the remarks while delivering a keynote address at The 10th Eastern Africa Reproductive Health Network (EARHN) Coordination meeting, organized virtually by the Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office (PPD- ARO) on August 12, 2020.
The keynote address was titled, “Sustaining the moment for managing and implementation of reproductive health/family planning, maternal and child health programmes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his presentation, Prof. Omaswa used Uganda as an example of a country with excellent structures for the health system which goes down to the village level.
“Every village for 2,000 people is expected to have a team of nine people to compose a Village Health Team. One of them should be a Community Health Worker working fulltime who maintain a village health register in which every person in the household is recorded. The health situation of every person is monitored: who is the head of the household, is the mother going for antenatal care, are the children receiving immunization, are the homes hygienic and so on,” explained Prof. Omaswa.
“I would like to advocate for a people centered Primary Health Care which is owned by the people themselves… Your health is your business. It is not the business of the government,” he stressed.
Prof. Omaswa also urged African countries to make use of the opportunity presented by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to do better.
“Asian countries like Korea and Singapore got independence at the same time like us. Our indices were at par. So, what did we do wrong? We should be ashamed of this. We should feel pain about this. And we should grab the opportunity and catch up with the rest of the world as we had hoped when we got independence over 60 years ago,” said Prof. Omaswa.
He added: “The SDGs are a new opportunity for us to address those gaps which we had immediately after independence. And I see the opportunity presented by SDGs is really a good one which we should grasp. The SGDs are telling us that like we rejected colonialism, like we rejected apartheid, we have also decided to reject avoidable deaths. We should be able to work together. And it is achievable, it is possible.”
Other issues raised were on the need to focus on the rural youth to be able to achieve the demographic dividend, as well as humanity and cohesiveness as a foundation for UHC.
Commenting on the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought the world to a standstill, Prof. Omaswa said, “The main point about COVID-19 is that is it here and it is not going to go away. It has brought the world to a standstill. We need to move on.”
The meeting was moderated by Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, the Director General of the National Population Council who also stressed that: “The coronavirus has entered communities. We do not know how long it is with us. Without a cure or vaccine, our role is to do prevention.”
During the meeting, representatives from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda shared experiences on sustaining the momentum for managing and implementation of reproductive health/family planning, maternal and child health programmes amidst the COVID 19 pandemic. They also discussed progress made in the implantation of the EARHN Strategic Plan 2017 -2021. EARHN is a south-south advocacy network that advocates for improved reproductive health/family planning, population and development outcomes within the Eastern Africa countries.
Compiled by Carol Natukunda, Communication Specialist, ACHEST.