Tonny Odokonyero, a Research Analyst at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) has said that inadequate funding for health continues to prevail amidst renewed government commitment to realize the ambitious goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as stipulated in the National Development Plan (NDP) and Health Sector Development Plan (HSDP).

Odokonyero was presenting a paper titled “Leveraging Development Aid for Health (DAH) to advance Universal Health Coverage” at the Symposium on Health Financing for Universal Health Coverage in Low and Middle Income Countries held on August 16-18, 2017 at Serena Hotel Kampala.

“Health sector funding must be improved to realize ambitious health related goals. Besides ameliorating domestic resources for healthcare, this can be possible if the country properly harnesses DAH,” Odokonyero said.

He also noted that for health foreign aid to effectively support Uganda’s healthcare agenda, all donor support for healthcare must be aligned to the national health development goal. However, he observed that the biggest challenge with DAH is uncertainty regarding its sustainability, so efforts should be made to harness or maximally utilize it in the interim period, as the government develops or strengthens long-term domestic healthcare financing mechanisms.

Odokonyero further noted that there is poor enforcement of controls particularly around disbursement and that there are often wide variances between health aid commitment and disbursement.

He called for proper and effective utilization of development aid for health in the short run, as the existing fiscal space is limited and does not allow for adequate healthcare financing.

UHC Workshop 17 Aug 2017

Dr. Diana Atwine the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health while representing Dr. Ruth Aceng, the Health Minister, in her closing remarks at the symposium called for accountability for every tablet and other resources sent to all health centers. She also decried government’s failure to fulfill the 15 percent commitment for healthcare funding (i.e. as a share of national budget), which she attributed to resource constraints.

She said that UHC is only possible if people take responsibility and prevent diseases at household and individual level citing Kampala as an example where only 1 percent cases of malaria are recorded since residents address the social and environmental causes of disease burdens. Her observation on DAH was consistent with Tonny’s presentation, where she recommended that it is time for government to start rejecting donor resources that are not aligned to national health priorities.

The symposium drew international participants and was themed, “Financing for Universal Health Coverage (UHC): more Money for Health and more Health for the Money”.