Civil Society Network for Universal Health Coverage (CSNUHC) a local group, calls on government to progressively increase investment in health by moving towards allocating at least 15 percent of the national budget to health as agreed by African leaders in the Abuja Declaration of 2001, and 5 percent of the annual GDP to health care expenditure.
National chairman David Flomo, in a statement, urges government to prioritize primary healthcare linked to essential care packages that are defined by Liberia’s needs and priorities required to meeting Sustainable Development Goals’ target on health.
Speaking at the launch of CSNUHC Friday, February 28, Flomo stressed that donors and governments should provide funding in alignment with Liberia’s plans, in line with the aid effectiveness principles and WHO’s recommendation of funding levels.
He wants donors to support low-income countries like Liberia, to bridge significant financial gaps, saying, “The international community should support Liberia to grow its fiscal space by tackling undermining practices like tax evasion and avoidance, among others.”
According to him, civil society should must be included in decision-making processes at all levels, to facilitate citizen-led monitoring of progress and outcomes towards universal health coverage, including the health budget and adherence to commitments.
“This includes involvement in health systems strengthening efforts at district, county and national levels, and the provision of expanded health coverage to the poorest and most marginalized groups. Strengthening social-led accountability is necessary to maintain the integrity of Liberia’s health system, prevent corruption-related resource drain, and ensure more appropriate, acceptable and sustainable health programs.” He notes.
Flomo continues that achieving Universal Health Coverage depends on availability, accessibility, and capacity of trained health workers coupled with appropriate numeration and benefits, especially at the primary care level, to deliver quality, people-centered health services.
He underscores that it is critical to ensure adequate health care financing and investment are earmarked for training and capacity building of community and frontline health workers so they can support provision of inclusive, holistic and equitable health services for everyone everywhere in Liberia.
“If we must ensure universal health coverage and health system strengthening, reducing out of pocket expenses and achieving the aims of the SDGs, national government, influential individuals, relevant stakeholders and donors should take the following actions”, he says.
He says the objective of the Network is to ensure Liberia gets a strong primary health care system through sustained health advocacy, while noting that primary health care system Liberia is weak, budget allocation to the health sector is low and monitoring mechanisms on accountability is almost non-existent.
Flomo explains Universal Health Coverage is an inherently political agenda, and political will is essential to secure and sustain investment in health and drive appropriate health system reforms.
He adds the project which brought into being the Network, is a health advocacy project geared towards increased health financing and investment in Liberia, and that Partnership for Sustainable Development (PaSD) and SUN Civil Society Alliance of Liberia (SUNCSAL) are currently implementing program funded by a UK-based pharmaceutical company, Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) through Save the Children International.
“To succeed in this advocacy, we will engage all stakeholders and relevant government officials in the Executive and Legislative Branches, to live up to global, as well as regional and national commitments by demanding that policies are reformed, funds invested are tracked, and health outcomes are measured and published.”
Flomo laments, too many children still suffer or die from largely preventable causes, too many women still die in childbirth, too many people die from treatable chronic conditions, and too many people lack access to quality and affordable health care, a situation which needs to be addressed with urgency .
For his part, the Chairmen of the House Standing Committee on Health, Joseph N. Somwarbi lauds the CSNUHC members for their farsightedness, which he observes, will help in the fight and ensure universal health coverage and health system strengthening.
He promises his doors are open to CSNUHC and pledges support of the National Legislature towards the endeavor.
Serving as chief launcher, assistant health minister for policy and planning, George P. Jacobs, pledges the Minister of Health, Doctor Jallah’s fullest support to the organization. Editing by Jonathan Browne