Sustainable Development Goal number three commits the world to ensuring “healthy lives and [promoting] well-being for all at all ages”. To this end, every UN Member State has agreed to try to achieve the ambitious goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030.
This goal is underpinned by the belief that everyone, everywhere - simply by virtue of being human - should have the right to a healthy life. UHC means that everyone should be able to access adequate and affordable healthcare, including medicines, vaccines, and financial risk protection (health insurance).
Currently, an estimated 400 million people are without access to essential health services. In many parts of the world, essential health services simply don’t exist. Sometimes, they are under-resourced or inadequately staffed. Globally, there is an acute shortage of health workers: the WHO estimates that, if current trends continue, there will be a net shortage of 14 million health workers (doctors, nurses, midwives and more) by 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa, where Amref UK's work is focused, has to contend with 25% of the world’s disease burden - yet only 3% of the world’s health workers live and work in the region.
On top of these challenges, people may encounter a range of barriers when trying to access healthcare: logistical or geographical barriers, physical barriers, cultural strictures, a lack of awareness or information, and stigma and discrimination.
Universal Health Coverage can only be achieved if current challenges are addressed at all levels, from the grassroots to the inter-governmental.
That's why Amref is working with some of the most remote and vulnerable communities in sub-Saharan Africa to remove these barriers and facilitate change that's lasting, and led by the communities themselves; particularly women and girls. We act as a bridge, connecting people to the structures, services and systems that already exist. We work in close cooperation with governments to strengthen these systems - primarily by training and supporting health workers, face-to-face or through mobile and online learning, so they can be as effective as possible. And although most African countries have integrated UHC into their health strategies, there is room for improvement - which is why we also advocate for increased investment in health, and better financial protection for vulnerable communities.
Universal Health Coverage is an ambitious goal, but it's one that Amref believes can and must be achieved. Health is a human right - and it's the key to a brighter future: freedom from poverty, economic empowerment, and the fulfilment of the full range of human rights.
Graphic (c) Universal Health Coverage Coalition