Brussels, 24 February 2015/ ACP: African, Caribbean and Pacific countries are amongst those which spend the least, per citizen, of their national budgets to ensure access and equity to health care for their populations.

Recent figures show that total health expenditures for at least 30 ACP countries, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, are below US$86 per capita annually, estimated by the WHO as the minimum cost for a basic health benefits package.

“The limited amount of resources available for the health sector remains a key development constraint, despite the several international commitments and key initiatives over the last decade,” said Dr. John Kakule, ACP Secretariat's development expert working with EU-funded health programmes.

At an international conference opened yesterday, senior health officials from ACP countries discussed how to best address key challenges, such as nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, and progress on Millennium Development Goals 4 (reducing child mortality), 5 (improving maternal health), and 6 (fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases).

Financing for the health sector is a major factor in whether these issues can be effectively tackled. While development assistance for health has risen dramatically over the past decade, the meeting raised concerns about efficiency in spending and getting the best “value for money.” Discussions covered the cost-effectiveness of “horizontal” sector-wide investment, versus “vertical” health programming, which tackles one disease or issue at a time.

In the Pacific, donor harmonisation and local ownership were seen as the priority. Meanwhile, a delegate from Ghana stressed that more emphasis should be placed on local resources in case foreign aid levels drop.

“Our task is to convince our political leadership of the necessity and vital importance of supporting health programmes in all our development activities,” ACP Assistant Secretary General in charge of Political Affairs and Human Development, Mme. Dominique Raymond told participants.

European Commission’s Dr Walter Siedel said that the need to bring public health financing closer to certain minimum levels is a priority area of change under discussion at DEVCO. He pointed out that amongst the countries with the lowest public health financing in West Africa were Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – the worst hit by the recent ebola outbreak in the region.

The 2nd Meeting of ACP Senior Health Officials included representatives from across the Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Representatives of the WHO, UNFPA, IPPF, UNICEF, and the European Commission made presentations, along with representatives from regional bodies and civil society.

The meeting precedes the 2nd Ministers of Health meeting to take place on 25-26 February.

Browse photos from this event at ACP Press on Flickr

– ACP Press