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WHO calls on governments to invest in Universal Health Coverage

President William Ruto during the unveiling of kits to Community Health Promoters in Nairobi

A report by the World Health Organization has revealed gross inequities in global spending on health at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

According to the 2023 global health expenditure report, which sheds new light on the evolution of global health spending at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, low-income countries accounted for only 0.24% of global health expenditure, despite having an 8% share of the world’s population in 2021.

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The report says public spending on health had increased across the world, except in low-income countries where government health spending decreased and external health aid played an essential supporting role.

Released ahead of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day, the report reveals that in 2021 global spending on health reached a new high of US$ 9.8 trillion or 10.3% of global gross domestic product (GDP).

According to the report, about 11% of the world’s population lived in countries that spent less than US$ 50 per person per year, while the average per capita spending on health was around US$ 4 000 in high-income countries in 2021.

“Sustained public financing on health is urgently needed to progress towards universal health coverage. It is especially critical at this time when the world is confronted by the climate crisis, conflicts and other complex emergencies. People’s health and well-being need to be protected by resilient health systems that can also withstand these shocks,” said Dr Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director-General, Universal Health Coverage, Life Course.

During the pandemic, countries also adjusted their service delivery mechanisms to adapt to the new demands of battling COVID-19 while sustaining essential services.

Capital investments increased in all income groups during the pandemic: 40-50% in low- and lower-middle income countries, and 8-9% in upper-middle and high-income countries according to the report.

In low-income countries, the report says there was a surge in machinery and equipment spending, possibly influenced by the lack of essential equipment, such as ventilators and hospital beds, at the beginning of the pandemic.


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