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Vice-President talks tough on health reforms

Vice-President Saulos Chilima Tuesday told stakeholders at a health sector reforms forum in Lilongwe that Malawians continue to face significant health challenges which must be addressed with a sense of urgency.

Chilima, who presided over the opening of the forum, said reforming the sector is not a matter of multiple choice at this stage, but something that Malawians wish should have happened yesterday.

He said government’s goal in line with the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to ensure Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

“But to achieve this, we will need concerted aggressive efforts like we are doing as well as to increase our domestic revenue base from which we can finance the health care.

“This will largely depend on the success of broader economic reforms that government is undertaking, to put the country on the path to sustainable economic development,” said Chilima.

He added that now is the time for Malawi’s health sector to seriously explore ways of ensuring that everyone with the ability to pay contributes to financing of the Essential Health Package (EHP) while keeping out-of-pocket payments as low as possible.

According to the Veep, previous reforms and systems strengthening initiatives in the health sector which include adoption of universal access to the EHP have helped reduce child and maternal mortalities, among others.

Meanwhile, the Health Donor Group (HDG), a key stakeholder in the health sector reforms programme, has urged government to tread carefully on health financing so that the arrangement does not further impoverish poor Malawians.

In a separate interview on the sidelines of the forum, HDG co-chairperson, Eugene Nyarko, said Malawi has the potential of achieving UHC just like all other countries.

Nyarko, who is also World Health Organisation (WHO) Resident Representative, said the country has a health system that is already providing care to the majority of people, just that it is the way things are being done that needs to be changed.

“We don’t want anybody to pay for health services from their pocket in a way that would disadvantage the person by making him or her poorer. A sustainable health financing largely depends on government tapping from its own domestic resource base,” he said.

On the other hand, Nyarko hailed the health sector reforms progress, describing them as a bold step towards dealing with inefficiencies in the system.

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