Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng

The Minister of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has decried government’s failure to fulfill the 15 percent commitment for healthcare funding as a share of national budget.

The Minister’s remarks were contained in a speech read for her by Dr. Diana Atwine, the health ministry Permanent Secretary, during a symposium themed, ‘Financing for Universal Health Coverage (UHC): more Money for Health and more Health for the money’ .

The Symposium held recently at Kampala Serena Hotel, focused on Health Financing for Universal Health Coverage in Low and Middle Income Countries, and brought together many international participants.

And in her speech Dr. Aceng noted that resource constraints had affected the commitment, stressing however, that there must be accountability for resources sent to all health centers.

She said that UHC is only possible if people take responsibility and prevent diseases at household and individual level, citing Kampala as an example where only 1 percent cases of malaria are recorded since residents address the social and environmental causes of disease burdens.

She also urged government to reject donor resources that are not aligned to national health priorities.

EPRC Researcher Tony Odokonyero

Tony Odokonyero, a research analyst at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) echoed the Minister’s concerns, noting that inadequate funding for health is prevalent despite renewed government commitment to realize the ambitious goal of UHC as stipulated in the National Development Plan (NDP) and Health Sector Development Plan (HSDP).

“Health sector funding must be improved to realize ambitious health related goals. Besides ameliorating domestic resources for healthcare, this can be possible if the country properly harnesses DAH,” Odokonyero, who was presenting a paper titled ‘Leveraging Development Aid for Health (DAH) to advance Universal Health Coverage’, said.

He also noted that for health foreign aid to effectively support Uganda’s healthcare agenda, it must be aligned to the national health development goal. However, he observed that the biggest challenge with DAH is uncertainty regarding its sustainability, so efforts should be made to harness or maximally utilize it in the interim period, as the government develops or strengthens long-term domestic healthcare financing mechanisms.

Odokonyero further noted that there is poor enforcement of controls particularly around disbursement and that there are often wide variances between health aid commitment and disbursement.

He called for proper and effective utilization of development aid for health in the short run, noting that the existing fiscal space is limited and does not allow for adequate healthcare financing.