Ghana Must Honour Abuja Declaration

Sherry Aryittey, Health Minister
SEND-GHANA, a non governmental organisation (NGO) and a subsidiary of SEND Foundation of West Africa, has called on government to comply fully with the Abuja Declaration, which commits African governments to increase funding for the health sector in their respective countries by at least 15 percent.

Signed in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, in April 2001, the Declaration also urges donor countries to scale up support for the health sector on the continent to help improve systems.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), only one African country, Tanzania, has so far reached that target of increasing funding for health by at least 15 percent.

A 2011 report on the WHO’s website reads, ‘Overall, 26 countries have increased the proportion of government expenditures allocated to health and 11 have reduced it since 2001.

In the other nine, there is no obvious trend up or down. Current donor spending varies dramatically from US$ 115 per person in one country, to less than US$ five per person in 12 others.’

On Wednesday, SEND- Ghana released a new report after a research that found that although Ghana’s yearly budgetary support for the health sector is still below the 15 percent target set by the Abuja Declaration.

‘Annual budget allocations to the health sector in nominal terms has seen increases over the years, however it still falls short of 15 percent of the national budget in compliance with the Abuja Declaration,’ said Dr Ernest Tei Maya, who reviewed the findings of SEND-Ghana’s research.

Speaking at a ceremony to launch the report, Dr Maya, lecturer at the Public Health College of Health Sciences said, ‘Till date, government allocation has been fluctuating between 10.5 percent and 12.5 percent.

In 2011 and 2012, there was significant improvement in internally generated funds with higher contribution to the health sector’s budget than any single source; be it Government of Ghana (GOG) or development partners.’

STAR-Ghana, a donor agency, funded the SEND- Ghana research. The document is titled: ‘Halting needless death of women: The need for priority investment in maternal healthcare delivery in Ghana’.

Dr Maya said, ‘The study was conducted to identify the source of funding for six districts health facilities for provision of maternal health services.’

According to him, some of the areas examined included ‘public financial management mechanism as pertained to budget transparency and credibility.’

Ghana is perceived as a nation that is on its way to attaining many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), having succeeded in achieving MDG 1 in 2006.

The country has also made significant progress towards achieving MDGs 2, 3, 6 and 8.

As a signatory to the MDGs and the Abuja Declaration, which enjoins nations to, among other things, reduce maternal mortality, Ghana has over the last decade implemented a number of policy interventions, including the free maternal health care policy, national health insurance scheme, safe motherhood initiatives, and roll back malaria to address maternal healthcare challenges.

In spite of all these, however, experts say the pace of progress suggests that Ghana is unlikely to attain the goal of halving maternal mortality.

The report also bemoaned the lack of citizen participation in putting together the health budget.

‘Citizens are not also involved in health budget planning. This state of affairs does not promote transparency in the allocation and utilisation of funds earmarked for the implementation of maternal healthcare programmes,’ Dr Maya said.


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