By Sharon Atieno

As the world marks World Health Day 2019, the African Development Bank Group is renewing its call for firmer commitment to pledges made by countries for universal health coverage (UHC) for all individuals and communities.

“The Bank supports national efforts to accelerate investments in Universal Health Coverage. It recognizes that inclusive economic growth must be accompanied by strong efforts to improve equitable access to care for vulnerable individuals and communities. Due consideration will also be given to complementary investments in education and skills development as well as jobs for youth,” said Oley Dibba-Wadda, Director of Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development at the Bank in a statement.

The Bank’s advocacy and support for Universal Health Coverage goals is hinged on its commitments and continued support for Africa’s health sector goals, and calls by development experts for increased public and private investment in primary healthcare, which is the foundation of UHC, the theme for this year’s World Health Day.

According to the World Health Organization and global development organizations, who have jointly defined UHC as individuals and communities being able to receive basic health services without suffering financial hardship, at least half of the world’s population still does not have full coverage of essential health services. The journey towards UHC also means taking steps towards equity, focusing on development priorities, social inclusion and cohesion.

Health experts at the Bank are also advocating for institutional investments in data management and data analytics technology, to better track health sector developments and trends at national and sub-national levels. These measures are needed to recalibrate the sector’s job creation potential, deepening its contributions to economic and social development.

African countries – and all UN Member States – have committed to achieving UHC by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Bank has supported national efforts towards the implementation of health insurance in countries such as Djibouti, Gabon and Morocco.

Dibba-Wadda further observed that mitigating poor health outcomes, preventing malnutrition and consequently achieving UHC in Africa would require pro-active measures by stakeholders to integrate cost-effective interventions into regular healthcare plans and systems.

The Bank remains fully committed to addressing malnutrition in Africa, in all its ramifications. According to 2018 statistics, 58.7 million children in Africa were stunted, 13.8 million children were wasted and 9.7 million children were overweight.

Africa represents the continent that is the most affected by the double or triple burden of malnutrition, as countries show a combination of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight/obesity. Of the 41 countries globally that struggle with all three forms of malnutrition, 30 are in Africa. This triple burden of malnutrition predisposes the continent to non-communicable diseases, and its associated health costs. Preventative nutrition services therefore need to be urgently scaled up.

UHC is directly aligned to the Bank’s goal of improving the quality of life for the people of Africa, one of its High 5 priorities. Contact: