After leading Liberia to victory against the dreadful Ebola virus disease in what is being referred to as the worst outbreak ever in modern times, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is rallying world leaders to ensure that Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is achieved.
President Sirleaf told leaders at a high-level meeting on global heath in the United States that the prioritization of health and human securities remain critical to the achievement of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
According to a dispatch, the meeting was held on the theme: “The Path Towards Universal Health Coverage: The Promotion of Equitable Global Health and Human Security in the Post-2015 Development Era.”
The event, which was held on the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly, was co-sponsored by Japan, France, Senegal, Thailand, the World Health Organization and the Global Fund, the dispatch said.
The SDGs, launched by the UN General Assembly at its 70th anniversary in New York, are a new, universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states are expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years.
Within the new global agenda, world leaders are pledging to, among other things, “end hunger, make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable,” all by 2030.
President Sirleaf told the audience that human progress is often measured in terms of their health as basic human security; which she says thrives alongside trappings of the SDGs.
She stressed that by adopting UHC, the world would have positioned its energies towards combating various health-related challenges such as infectious diseases; re-echoing the call that the rapid response to strengthening the global health systems is crucial to confronting potential pandemics.
She emphasized the need for strategic pooled financing instruments backed by private partnership, which according to her, would play a major role in translating global goals into investment within the context of global health.
“This makes it exceedingly imperative for global health leaders to adapt to the transitioning landscape that is critical to determining the unprecedented achievements in global health following the adoption of the SDGs,” President Sirleaf said.
The President’s call comes exactly 18 months and two weeks when she disclosed that her government was embarking on initiating a national program that would see every Liberian receive free health services on an equitable basis.
She told an assembly of Ministers of Health who were visiting from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that her government is initiating a Liberia Health Equity Fund (LHEF).
The LHEF will be a new funding mechanism that will help pay for health care for all Liberians. Everyone will have access to the same services regardless of where they are, who they are or their financial standing, the President said.
President Sirleaf said if Liberia would achieve UHC, it must begin to build a sustainable health financing system through domestic financing.
The President admitted that it would be a difficult task considering the multiple needs of a country undergoing reconstruction, but said it must be done. Her statement might have been prompted by what she observed as fast-paced declining donor support to the health sector.
President Sirleaf said that despite other challenges, government is working to improve the health and social welfare for Liberians on an equitable basis.
She named inadequate financing for medicine, facility construction, health workers’ incentives; poor-quality service delivery; financial constraints of the population themselves, especially the poor, as some of the major challenges facing the health sector.