NAIROBI, March 8 (Xinhua) — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta Monday appealed to African governments to include youth at the core of programs of their Universal Health Coverage (UHC) — a plan aims to achieve that everyone receives needed health services without financial hardship.
When he delivered the opening address at this year’s Africa Health Agenda International Conference held virtually, Kenyatta said young people have the energy, motivation and know-how to drive the agenda forward.
The president said health challenges facing young Africans such as HIV/AIDS, mental health and substance abuse had been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I urge the conference to give special attention to health issues that are plaguing our young people; which include teenage pregnancies, alcohol and substance abuse, lifestyle diseases, epidemics such as HIV/AIDs, and mental health,” he said in a statement issued after the speech.
“The youth are a key constituency in driving momentum towards UHC that should not be side-lined. We should engage with and empower our youth; giving them the knowledge and skills to take charge of their health,” he added.
According to Kenyatta, African nations need to focus more on the expansion of primary health, increase access to health services, make healthcare affordable and harness the innovativeness of its youth in order to make the UHC aspiration a reality.
Kenyatta also called for stronger collaboration and coordination among stakeholders, improvement of health security and more political will to advance the UHC agenda.
He said besides providing curative medical services priority should also be given to preventive aspects such as maternal and child health, water, sanitation, and hygiene services.
“Currently, about 600 million people across the African continent do not have access to health services. To address this, we must make increased investments in physical facilities, medical equipment, drugs, and trained personnel,” he said.
Kenya has significantly expanded its health services in recent years by equipping over 100 hospitals with advanced medical equipment. In Nairobi, the president pointed out that his administration was developing 24 new hospitals in the city’s informal settlements.
He regretted the high cost of healthcare in Africa, saying many families suffer the misfortune and indignity of having to sell-off family assets to offset medical bills.
He estimated that 15 million African households are pushed to poverty annually due to out-of-pocket healthcare payments saying Kenya was implementing a mix of measures to address the high cost of medical care.
The president also advised health sector stakeholders to harness the innovativeness and creativity of Africans, especially the youth, as demonstrated in the continent’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These local-level successes in fighting COVID-19 can be a strong foundation for increasing capacities for the domestic manufacturing of essential medical commodities, drugs, and vaccines required in other disease and healthcare situations,” he said.
Article first published on china.org.cn