ADB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group has renewed its call for a firmer commitment to pledges made by countries for universal health coverage (UHC) for all individuals and communities.

At least half of the world’s population still do not have full coverage of essential health services, according UHC as individuals and communities being able to receive basic health services without suffering financial hardship.

Africa is the most affected by the double or triple burden of malnutrition, as countries show a combination of under nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight or obesity.

According to the Director of Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development at the Bank, Mr. Oley Dibba-Wadda, and the Bank supports national efforts to accelerate investments in UHC.

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.

He said it recognizes 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.

“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 ‘Universal Health Coverage (UHC)’, the theme for this year’s World Health Day.”

He said the journey towards UHC 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.

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. Available data for 2018 shows that 58.7 million children in Africa were stunted, 13.8 million children were wasted and 9.7 million children were overweight,” he said.