By PETER OBUYA Special Correspondent
Posted Saturday, March 30 2013 at 21:55
- Dubbed the East African Open Health Initiative, it aims at improving reproductive, maternal and child health across the five member states.
- The Open Health Initiative will promote innovative interventions and enhance access to health information as well as resources for women and children’s health.
- The Open Health Initiative aims to mobilise $30 million over a three-year period. The Norwegian government will fund its implementation.
The East African Community has unveiled a $5 million programme to improve healthcare in the bloc.
Dubbed the East African Open Health Initiative, it aims at improving reproductive, maternal and child health across the five member states.
Pressure for healthcare interventions is building in East Africa, driven by changing demographics of diseases such as cancer that is fast replacing heart disease and HIV/Aids as the biggest killer.
Cancer is an expensive disease to manage and families are forced to fund raise and sell their assets to treat it.
The Open Health Initiative will promote innovative interventions and enhance access to health information as well as resources for women and children’s health.
“The initiative will improve the lives of people in the region in the most cost-effective way,” said Christine Ondoa, Uganda’s Health Minister, who is also the chairperson of EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health at the launch of the programme in Arusha recently.
The EAC Summit of Heads of State in November last year gave the three-year Open Health Initiative their stamp of approval with the aim of supporting partner states reach their Millennium Development Goals with respect to women and children’s healthcare services.
While East African governments account for 35–40 per cent of the total expenditure on health with private expenditure accounting for 60–70 per cent of the amount, healthcare funding remains a big challenge.
Kenya’s total expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product in the past financial year was 4.2, Burundi 13, Tanzania 4.5, Uganda 7.8 and Rwanda 9.4.
The initiative also hopes to promote innovative interventions, enhance access to data and information for better results and provide stronger oversight of results and resources for women and children’s health.
EAC Deputy Secretary General Jesca Eriyo said that there is an unacceptably high rate of maternal and child mortality in the region that is hindering the development and advancement of individuals and families.
She referred to the rate of stunting in children under five, which stands at 58 per cent in Burundi; the child mortality rate, at 76 per 1,000 live births in Rwanda; the maternal mortality rate at 448 per 100,000 live births in Kenya; the 27 per cent unmet needs for contraceptives in Tanzania and skilled attendants at only 59 per cent of births in Uganda.
A recent study by Lancet shows that a woman in sub-Saharan Africa is almost 100 times more likely to die because of pregnancy and childbirth complications than a woman in the developed world.
The Open Health Initiative aims to mobilise $30 million over a three-year period. The Norwegian government will fund its implementation.
“This is an innovative funding approach that will operate by allocating rewards based on improved performance at the national and sub-national level against key women’s and children’s health indicators and accountability indicators,” she said.