Universal Health Care Partnership: Building stronger health systems for universal health coverage
At least half of the world’s population does not have access to the health services they need, about 100 million people fall into extreme poverty each year because of excessive health spending and over 800 million people spend at least 10% of their household income on healthcare.
The European Union (EU) is committed to change this and help achieve the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal of reaching 1 billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage by 2023.
Through the Universal Health Coverage Partnership, the EU is supporting 115 countries in their mission to ensure that all people have access to preventive, curative, and rehabilitative health services of quality, when and where they need them, without financial hardship.
WHO has no higher priority than universal health coverage… It not only improves health, it also helps reduce poverty, drive inclusive economic growth and advance gender equality.- Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General
Through this partnership, the WHO supports countries to strengthen good governance in the health sector by developing robust national health policies, to increase the coverage for essential health services. This includes the provision of technical assistance to Ministries of Health, to strengthen national and regional capacities in planning and health financing to ultimately improve service delivery, financial risk protection and health equity for all.
The partnership was initially launched in 2011 and provided support to seven countries. With the continued support of the EU along with Belgium, France, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom, it is in its fourth phase (2019-2022) and now spans 115 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
Strengthening the health workforce in Niger
The Universal Health Coverage Partnership has supported important health systems progress in Niger, which has become an example of best practice in strengthening health workforce.
The Diaffa Rural Pipeline project was set-up through the development of the National Action Plan for investment in health and social sector employment and growth in economic health (2018-2021)
With an estimated investment of USD 17.8 million, the Diaffa Rural Pipeline is adopting a systemic approach to inclusive community development through direct investments in the health workforce as well as human resources in other key development sectors such as education, nutrition and mother and child health.
By the end of this project, the Diaffa rural pipeline will have directly contributed to strengthen health systems by creating a strong workforce consisting of 300 health graduates trained and recruited in health facilities and 12 mutual health associations to ensure universal health coverage for populations in the 12 communes of this region.
The partnership has contributed to Niger’s health system resilience and improved maternal, child and newborn health by facilitating national discussions on the operationalization of the Plan and by providing the technical support. It contributes to build on recommendations to develop at least 40 million new jobs in health and social sectors to reduce shortage of 18 million health professionals expected in low-and-middle-income countries by 2030, and offers the opportunity to women and young people to enter the health labour market. Similar efforts to support health workforce development are underway in other countries in the Southern Africa region.
Investing in infectious disease preparedness and response in South Africa
In the context of COVID-19, the Universal Health Coverage Partnership has been expanding its technical work to include a special focus on health security, while maintaining efforts to strengthen health systems and UHC.
In the case of South Africa, the partnership has revamped its work to support health emergency preparedness planning, including the development of the National Action Plan for Health Security aiming to strengthen detection and response to infectious disease threats.
This included the provision of technical cooperation on cross-border health security issues, developing risk assessments and mapping of vulnerabilities as well as the promotion of collaboration between human, animal and environmental health sectors to control endemic zoonotic, emerging and re-emerging diseases. The partnership has also supported the development and implementation of the National Infection Prevention and Control Strategic Framework during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These efforts towards increased health security and more resilient health systems build on South Africa’s strong commitment to accelerating UHC and outlined in the Presidential Health Compact. UHC-P support has covered critical aspects to this goal such as the development of robust national health policies, and plans covering quality improvement, operationalisation of human resources for health, and the improvement of public financial management for the scale up of investments to strengthen health systems.