By Meshack Ian Acholla

The clock is ticking fast and soon before we realise, 2030 will be here with us. In September 2019 global leaders met in New York for the 74
th United Nations general Assembly where they took stock on progress made and were cognisant of the time left until 2030. Yet again, the political leaders reaffirmed their commitments, but as we race against the clock, we call for action.

My generation is watching and full of optimism. The question that still remains unanswered for those of us in sub-Saharan Africa is simple:

‘Will the current generation of global leaders stand to be counted as those who delivered Universal Health Coverage for all, everywhere?’

Today, I speak with utmost confidence, knowing that what I stand for can be amplified through the voice of billions of young people across the world today. To make our alliance stronger, we are joined by women and children to boldly ask governments to prioritise delivery of Universal Health Coverage. Our asks are outlined as follows:

Ensure Political Leadership Beyond Health

The foundation of any delivering economy with a productive workforce is how healthy its people are- especially the youth as they hold the promise for growth into the future.  As governments set UHC as a priority, it should cement this promise with proper investments beyond the health sector. Maybe providing affordable clean energy would ensure hospitals in the environ are able to run efficiently and improve services offered. They should fix social issues like ensuring lasting peace, good road infrastructure and access to a working clean water system just to mention a few.

Leave No One Behind

Access to health care is a fundamental human right. As governments are defining their UHC packages, no segment in its demographics should be left out. In the past years, adolescent and youth have made a strong rallying call that there is no UHC without adolescent and youth Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. We can’t afford to leave that out. The provision of health services should be extended and accommodative even to the most marginalised in whatever content. As all this is being done, we must start by ensuring a strong monitoring system is available with accommodative data segregation. This is the time!  

Regulate and Legislate

Four years from now- by 2023, all governments will have an important milestone to attain.  Governments should ensure an enabling environment with a favourable policy framework for even the private sector to participate in accelerating progress toward UHC. The health sector should be well regulated with policies that have met the threshold of open participation by all stakeholders within the health sector and beyond. 

Uphold Quality of Care

For many parts of the world, government priority might be inclined towards a robust expansion of the health facilities which is a good thing. A caution however is that this bold infrastructural move should not lower the quality of service delivery. Women and young people need to build their trust upon a functional and efficient health system. Governments in sub-Sahara Africa should strengthen primary health care and invest in a strong committed work force whose goal is the health and wellbeing of those who seek services. One integral element to realise this would be innovation- sometimes simple and low-cost but tested to deliver high-impact. 

Invest More, Invest Better

Studies have shown that the current level of financing is still short to deliver UHC. Increased in domestic investments for health must be a priority for all governments. Across Africa there is a high burden of out-of-pocket expenditure for health care. There is need for equity and ensuring everyone accesses quality health care despite their socio-economic status.  I am happy that innovative mechanisms like the Global Financing Facility are acting as a catalyst for governments to increase domestic funding for Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Adolescent Health and Nutrition. The decision-making table on how public resources for health are allocated and spent should include all- not leaving out women and young people.

Move Together

Lastly, there is need for a government led multi-stakeholder platform to coordinate the national UHC programme and shape the agenda. By opening its doors, governments can leverage a lot from civil society organisation representation, other non-state actors, development partners due to bilateral and strategic partnerships and religious leaders. Partnerships is all it takes to make the world healthier. 

The 2030 promise must be realised.