Stakeholders call for domestic financing of Malawi health budget

Stakeholders in Malawi’s health sector have reiterated calls that domestic financing of the country’s health budget is crucial in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) which seeks to ensure that everyone has access to quality healthcare services.

UHC coalition members and Members of Parliament pose for a group photo

This was said over the weekend in Salima District during an interface meeting between UHC coalition and Members of Parliament (MPs) belonging to health and budget committees and women caucus.

UHC coalition, a platform of stakeholders and advocates in the civil society, was lobbying the parliamentarians to consider increasing resources to the health sector to the required threshold of 15% of the national budget.

The coalition’s sentiments come amid growing concerns that Malawi’s health budget is still “increasingly dependent” on “unpredictable” donors and other well-wishers.

In her remarks, Ivonne Murindiwa, head of programs for Christian Aid, which is a member of the UHC coalition, emphasized that MPs have a duty to lobby for more resources towards the health sector.

“We have an over reliance on external support when it comes to the health budget. This is a very risky situation. There must be increased domestic resource mobilization for the health budget to ensure that everyone has adequate access to quality health services in Malawi,” said Murindiwa.

She commended the interface meeting with the MPs, saying it also sparked “interesting discussion” on how Malawi can domesticate some of the agreements that were made at the United Nations (UN) general assembly in terms of UHC.

Taking his turn, chairperson for the UHC coalition, George Jobe, concurred with Murindiwa, adding that the increased resources should go towards increasing healthcare workers and equipment, improving infrastructure and provision of drugs that “must not” be pilfered through corruption, theft and other leakages.

He commended the Government of Malawi for “doing its part” towards achieving UHC.

“Look at the strategic and policy documents we have, they already recognize UHC. For instance, the Health Sector Strategic Plan two, its theme is towards achieving UHC. Then there is the National Health Policy, its theme is the same. This is good. It means all of us are on the same page to achieve UHC,” said Jobe.

Renowned health rights activist and UHC ambassador for Malawi, Maziko Matemba, concurred with calls for increased budgetary allocation to health, saying it is “inevitable” especially now that the country is grappling with the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

However, reacting to all these concerns, chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Dr Matthews Ngwale, also expressed concern over what he described as “donors dominance on financing the health budget”.

He added: “While we understand the role we need to play on our part as MPs, we also appeal for more sensitization about this concept of UHC. We must all work together towards addressing the challenges that impinge the achievement of UHC”.

The interface meeting in Salima was held with financial support from Facilitators of Community Transformation (FACT), which is a member of the UHC coalition and implements various projects helping towards achieving UHC.

Malawi adopted UHC in September, 2019 at the UN general assembly.

According to Jobe, the UHC coalition, in order to heighten its contribution towards achieving UHC in Malawi, is largely involved in sensitizations, communication and lobbying.

That, he said, ensures that government adopts policies and investment decisions in the health sector in line with the objectives and goals of UHC.

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