The World Health Organisation (WHO) has made a strong call for universal health coverage, saying health is a human right.
WHO also said governments should ensure that all people can get quality health services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, in his message on the World Health Day, which is marked annually on April 7, said no one should be denied access to healthcare because of his or her social status.
“Health is a human right. No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health service they need.
“Universal health coverage is a political choice. It takes vision, courage and long-term thinking.
“But the payoff is a safer, fairer and healthier world for everyone,” Ghebreyesus said.
According to WHO, at least half the world’s population do not have coverage for full essential health services, with about 100 million people living on 1.90 dollars or less a day because they have to pay for health care.
Over the past seven decades, WHO has spearheaded efforts to rid the world of killer diseases and fight against deadly habits, like tobacco use.
“Good health is the most precious thing anyone can have. When people are healthy, they can learn, work, and support themselves and their families.
“When they are sick, nothing else matters. Families and communities fall behind. That’s why WHO is so committed to ensuring good health for all,” Ghebreyesus stressed.
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, recalled that WHO was founded on the principle that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.”
“Since then, average global life expectancy has expanded by 23 years,” he said, noting the eradication of smallpox and the dissipation of polio.
Guterres stressed that although millions more children lived to celebrate their fifth birthday, people around the world still lacked vital health services.
“Today, we join WHO in recommitting to ensure that everyone, everywhere, gets the health services they need. Join me in calling for Health for All,” he said.
“As part of the landmark 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all UN Member States agreed to try to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
“When people have to pay most health service costs themselves, often the poor cannot obtain what they need and even the rich may fall victim to financial hardship from long-term illness,” WHO said.
WHO maintained that pooling resources from compulsory funding sources, such as mandatory insurance contributions, could improve health service coverage by spreading the financial risks of illness across a population.
Many countries have successfully eliminated measles, malaria and debilitating tropical diseases, as well as mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
New WHO recommendations for earlier treatment, efforts to access cheaper generic medicines and innovative partnerships have produced vaccines against meningitis, Ebola and the world’s first for malaria.
By Prudence Arobani