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Rwanda makes strides toward achieving universal health care

Rwanda makes strides toward achieving universal health care

KIGALI, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) — Rwanda has made tremendous progress toward achieving universal health coverage due to various strategic interventions, a senior health official has said.

“Rwanda continues to improve the health and well-being of its citizens with a combination of evidence-based and people-centered strategies and interventions,” said Yvan Butera, Rwandan minister of State for Health, during the opening of National Dialogue on Health Financing in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, Thursday. Speaking about Rwanda’s progress toward universal health coverage, Butera attributed it to efficient health spending while ensuring better utilization and strategic investments. Butera said in the last fiscal year, national health insurance coverage expanded to 90 percent of Rwandans, which enabled patients to access health services while vulnerable residents received health services free of charge.He noted that the government has done its best to allocate significant funding toward primary healthcare which led the life expectancy of Rwandans to reach 69.6 in 2022 from 64.5 in 2012.

In the past seven years, the number of health posts in Rwanda reached 1,250 from 416 in 2016, which has increased access to timely health services, according to data from the ministry. The number of health centers slightly increased to 514 from 499 over the same period. The two-day meeting drew policymakers, private sector actors, academia, and civil society members to discuss approaches and strategies to boost domestic investment in health to boost efforts geared at achieving universal health coverage. Anne Githuku-Shongwe, the director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, said if countries allocate at least 1 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP), it would help strengthen the resilience of the health sector.

Africa has set ambitious goals to strengthen the health architecture, including achieving universal health coverage for citizens through setting various health targets. Symerre Grey-Johnson, the director of Human Capital and Institutional Development at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, an economic development program of the African Union, mentioned the need to transition commitments to action. Irene Isaka, the director of Social Sectors at the East African Community, said sustainable domestic health financing remains integral to the sustainable development of the regional bloc’s integration process. She highlighted risk pooling, remote patient monitoring, better disease management and better maternal and child health among the opportunities for growth in the regional health sector. Health financing systems in Sub-Saharan Africa experience low government spending amid under-developed insurance schemes.

Domestic government health spending as a proportion of GDP in the World Health Organization Africa region averaged 1.9 percent in 2017 compared with the global average of 3.3 percent.

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