The ongoing rollout of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC), now in the pilot phase, has received global recognition at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 72nd World Health Assembly meeting which kicked off in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday.
Speaking during the opening ceremony attended by hundreds of world leaders among them First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus cited Kenya as a leading crusader of UHC.
“Last year I mentioned Kenya’s ambitious plan to implement a new UHC scheme with support from WHO. In December, I had the honour of being with President Uhuru Kenyatta for the launch of that programme in Kisumu,” Dr Tedros informed the World Health Assembly.
The WHO Director-General said UHC has already started producing results in Kenya and gave the example of Immaculate Otene, a 33-year-old unemployed mother of four whose health burden has been lifted through access to free healthcare services.
“Immaculate is unemployed and her husband often goes without work. But thanks to Kenya’s new UHC plan designed with support from WHO, her family can now access free health services,” the Director-General said.
Kenya is currently implementing the pilot phase of UHC in the four counties of Kisumu, Nyeri, Isiolo and Machakos.
The WHO Director-General encouraged other countries to emulate Kenya’s commitment and scale up the provision of healthcare to their citizens by implementing UHC.
Dr Tedros urged WHO member states to promote access to quality primary healthcare, saying strong primary healthcare is the frontline defence to re-emerging diseases like cholera, polio and Ebola.
“There will be no UHC without primary healthcare. Primary healthcare is where the battle for human health is won or lost,” Dr Tedros said emphasizing that through primary healthcare that countries are able to prevent, detect and treat non-communicable diseases.
During the meeting, participants were urged to endorse actions that will ensure no one is left behind in the quest to provide quality healthcare through UHC.