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Press releases 2012

Tunis Declaration Calls for Increased Domestic Financing for Health

RBM Update, 6.07.2012
Opening ceremony
Opening ceremony

6 July 2012, Tunis, TUNIS –African Ministers of Finance and Health met in Tunis this week to review strategies for investing in the continent’s health sector during the coming years. Addressing the ministers, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership's Board Chair, Victor Makwenge urged the uptake of public-health and financing policies that demonstrate impact on maternal and child health.

Hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the conference gathered representatives from both Ministries of Finance and Health from all African Union (AU) member countries for the first time since the 2001 Abuja Declaration.

While Africa is experiencing fast economic growth, the continent with a population of 1 billion, continues to shoulder a high burden of disease. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 49% of maternal deaths and for 50% of under-five infant deaths. The increase in economic growth has not necessarily resulted in increased access to health care by poor populations.

Current population trends predict that 2.3 billion people will live in Africa by 2050. The continent’s greatest asset – or potential risk in the coming decades – will be its capacity to harness the rapidly increasing reservoir of human capital.

Although the demographic dividend can provide opportunities for economic development, basic health services need to be enhanced to enable poor and disadvantaged populations to join the productive workforce.

Economic growth could be sped up if a combination of country-specific public-health policies is implemented fast and financed sustainably. Universal use of insecticide-treated bed nets, for example, is widely recognized to be a key driver for economic development.

“Reductions in malaria cases and deaths have significant economic benefits,” said Dr Makwenge, referring ministers to the projected annual increase of African GNP by USD 20-30 billion with merely 10% additional investments for malaria control.

With an allocation of USD 6.7 billion for the global malaria response, at least 3 million lives could be saved for the period 2012 to 2015.

Amid the uncertainty and unpredictability of donor aid and foreign investments, governments seek to commit more of their own resources to health and to diversify revenues. “34 African countries have proven reserves of oil and gas,” said Donald Kaberuka, President of AfDB in his closing remarks to ministers. “How are you translating your national resources into the health sector?” he asked the Ministers of Finance, echoing their views that Africa had the financial means to be self-sufficient in health financing.

Strong economic growth can provide additional, diversified sources of revenue and the necessary fiscal space for new investments into the health sector. In this environment, close collaboration between ministries of finance and health is key to success.

Kaberuka therefore suggested that the cross-continental dialogue between Ministers of Finance and Health be continued by the AfDB. United Nations Economic Commission for Africa's Executive Secretary Abdoulie Janneh added that AU and AfDB meetings should always keep the issue of health on their respective agendas.

In adopting the ‘Tunis Declaration on Value for Money, Sustainability and Accountability in the Health Sector,’ ministers committed to increase domestic resources for health through enhanced revenue collection and innovative financing, giving priority to AIDS, TB and malaria, as well as reproductive, maternal and child health in national budgets.

The conference was co-organized by the Harmonization for Health in Africa mechanism (HHA), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The meeting was attended by 300 participants, including 59 Ministers of Finance and Health.