This article argues that the suspension of funding to Uganda from the Global Fund could have been avoided. The article outlines how the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) suspended five grants to Uganda following an audit report that exposed gross mismanagement in the Project Management Unit. The authors argue that this could have been avoided if a legitimate and fair decision-making process was used and that this lesson should be applied to other countries.
Resource allocation and health financing
According to this report by Oxfam, coverage of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in Ghana could be as low as 18%. Every Ghanaian citizen pays for the NHIS through Value added Tax (VAT), but as many as 82% remain excluded. They report that 64$ of people in the highest wealth quintile are signed up to the NHIS, compared with 29% of the lowest wealth quintile. Those excluded from the NHIS still pay user fees. They report that the administration of health insurance costs US$83 million each year, enough to pay for 23,000 more nurses. They propose that improved progressive taxation of Ghana’s own resources, especially oil, could increase spending to US$54 per capita, by 2015.
According to this report, coverage of Ghana's National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has been exaggerated and could be as low as 18% - less than a third of the coverage suggested by Ghana’s National Health Insurance Authority and the World Bank. Every Ghanaian citizen pays for the NHIS through VAT, but as many as 82% remain excluded. Twice as many rich people are signed up to the NHIS as poor people. Those excluded from the NHIS still pay user fees in the cash and carry system. Twenty five years after fees for health were introduced by the World Bank, they are still excluding millions of citizens from the health care they need. An estimated 36% of health spending is wasted due to inefficiencies and poor investment. Moving away from a health insurance administration alone could save US$83 million each year, Oxfam argues, which is enough to pay for 23,000 more nurses. Oxfam calls on the Ghanaian government to move fast to implement free health care for all its citizens.
Some activists have already called for the resignation of Richard Feachem, even though he has not yet signed a contract to become the first director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Boston Globe reports. Feachem, the founding director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of California-San Francisco, was named as the fund's first director in April by the fund's board but has come "under fire" from some activists because of comments regarding the amount of money in the fund. According to comments that first appeared in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Feachem said that the fund had "plenty" of money to get started. Northeastern University law professor Brook Baker and Gorik Ooms, head of Medicins Sans Frontieres in Tanzania, last week in an e-mail demanded that Feachem step down from his prospective position unless he "distanced himself" from his comments. Baker said that Feachem, as the head of the "grotesquely underfunded" fund, should be "a drum major who is marching at the head of the pack and demanding the money" and should not be "making 'nice nice' with politicians in the hope that they will become more forthcoming in the future." Feachem, who could "as early as today" sign a $200,000 annual tax-free contract to become the fund's first director, responded to both Baker and Ooms by e-mail, saying that he "understood ... the activists' frustration" and acknowledging that the fund "needed much more money."
WHO estimates an additional 250 000 mortalities between 2030 and 2050 will be attributable to climate-associated increases in malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory disease, water inaccessibility, and heat stress. Spillover effects on state and regional security are argued to be inevitable. The World Economic Forum has identified climate change as the single greatest threat to global stability because of its considerable consequences on the health and stability of developing nations. The complex interaction between climate change, health system burdens, and poor health outcomes, and their subsequent impact on politics, security, and society can be captured within the concept of a so-called climate-health-security nexus. Many of the world's poorest and most politically fragile nations lie at the centre of this nexus. Within this nexus, poverty, state fragility, poor pre-existing health outcomes, and high susceptibility to climate change converge to amplify the effects of future famines, droughts, and neglected tropical diseases. This amplification subsequently leads to worsened economies, social instability, and reliance on external support. The nations most at risk for climate-triggered health crises are primarily scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia and are already afflicted by the highest rates of disease burden globally (table, appendix). Notably, most of these countries are low-income nations without the resources to adequately contend with climate-related challenges.
This report indicates that family planning and maternal and newborn services fall well short of needs in developing countries, particularly in the world’s two poorest regions, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The authors argue that helping women and couples have healthy, wanted pregnancies in these regions will help achieve social and economic gains beyond the health sector. Several barriers to services were identified, such as weaknesses in health systems that need to be addressed, including insufficient capacity, weak contraceptive supply systems and poor financial management systems, as well as prejudice among providers toward unmarried, sexually active young people, or toward women who have had unsafe abortions. The authors suggest that the additional funds needed for improving services could come from a combination of domestic and international resources. Furthermore, decision makers need to recognise that changes outside the service environment (e.g. social changes) may improve demand for sexual and reproductive health care.
UN Habitat estimates that by 2025 over a third of all people in developing countries will be living in informal urban settlements. How can municipalities and governments do more to provide the most marginalised of the urban poor with adequate sanitation services? Can linkages and dialogue between policymakers and residents be fostered? A paper from the University of Southampton’s Institute of Irrigation and Development Studies (IIDS) reports the results of a study looking at policies, current service levels, attitudes, practices and expectations of residents and officials in 12 slums and shanty-towns in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Resultant guidelines suggest that unless agencies learn to be more responsive to the needs, demands and interests of poor communities, urban environments are likely to become ever more unsanitary.
This study measured out-of-pocket costs for caesarean section and neonatal care at an urban tertiary public hospital in Madagascar, assessed affordability in relation to household expenditure and investigated where families found the money to cover these costs. Data were collected for 103 women and 73 newborns at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Mahajanga in the Boeny region of Madagascar between September 2007 and January 2008. Out-of-pocket costs for caesarean section were catastrophic for middle and lower socio-economic households, and treatment for neonatal complications also created a big financial burden, with geographical and other financial barriers further limiting access to hospital care. This study identified 12 possible cases where the mother required an emergency caesarean section and her newborn required emergency care, placing a double burden on the household. In an effort to make emergency obstetric and neonatal care affordable and available to all, well-designed financial risk protection mechanisms and a strong commitment by the government to mobilise resources to finance the country's health system are necessary, the authors conclude.
Africa has a right to demand support from the international community in its fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, executive director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, told a meeting of African heads of state in Maputo, Mozambique in July. Professor Sachs said that only a very small fraction of the more than $10bn (£6.2bn; €8.8bn) needed each year to effectively combat these illnesses had yet been allocated to African countries.
This scorecard can help one see at a glance how a country is doing on the areas of budget transparency and participation most relevant for the health sector. All the information in the scorecard comes from the Open Budget Survey 2015. The information collected by the Open Budget Survey is not health specific, but the authors have selected the indicators most relevant to the health sector. Budget documents in different countries display how much will be spent on what priorities in different ways, with more or less detail. For citizens and civil society to understand what is being spent on their health, a high level of detail is required: one doesn’t just need to see the amount as classified by Ministry (e.g. what is allocated to the Ministry of Health) but also by function (e.g. primary healthcare), by economic classification (e.g. how much is spent on health workers’ salaries) or by programme (e.g. how much is spent on free healthcare for pregnant women). There is also an indicator which measures whether budget documents explicitly make the link between money spent, intended health outcomes, and actual results. Information is not enough for accountability. Civil society and citizens also need entry points to influence decisions during the budget process: this is what participation in budgeting provides. There are many ways to facilitate this, from releasing the budget timetable so that Civil Society organisations can get ready for important meetings or information release, to holding formal hearings at different stages in the budget process for the public to feed in their priorities. The scorecard is available in English and French.