Zanzibar — ZANZIBAR is almost ready for the Universal Health Insurance (UHI) that envisages guaranteeing quality medical services for all islanders irrespective of one’s economic status.
Health Minister, Mr Nassor Ahmed Mazrui told the Zanzibar Health Financing Forum here on Tuesday that a bill on the universal health coverage is ready for tabling in the next sitting of the House of Representatives.
He reiterated the government’s commitment to ensure that all Zanzibaris have access to quality, equitable and affordable health services, with money never being an impediment.
“We are quite aware that majority of our people don’t have the financial muscles to pay for health services; but under UHI, every person attending health facility will receive complete services–money should never be an obstacle,” said Minister Mazrui.
He expounded that although Zanzibar Health Policy provides for free medical services to all citizens, the reality on the ground is quite different. He conceded poor quality of care at many public primary facilities, leading to dismal health outcomes, including high maternal and under-five mortality rates.
The Revolutionary Government is working closely with a health non-governmental organisation–PharmAccess–among other partners, to accomplish the universal health dream.
PharmAccess Programme Manager, Dr Faiza Abbas said it is high time every Zanzibari was insured against ailments, saying it’s unrealistic for the government to provide quality and equitable medical care to all 1.7 million islanders.
“Under the universal health insurance, more funds will become available for healthcare,” said Dr Abbas, adding that the insurance scheme will as well reduce out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure, which is a serious issue with majority poor islanders.
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Chief of Social Policy, Mr Diego Angemi said the UN agency backs the universal health coverage drive, firmly believing that health service is never a privilege but a basic right to all citizens.
He implored stakeholders to work jointly in devising elaborate and minimal financing packages to guarantee stable financing of the health services, “Without leaving anybody behind.”
The one-day forum brought together health experts and stakeholders to share lessons and experience on sustainable financing of the universal health coverage in the country.
Head of Health Care Financing in the Ministry of Finance, Mr Abdul-latf Haji told the forum that the government is already moving towards the universal coverage, citing establishment of universal health insurance, health equity fund, visitors scheme and initiation of planning, budgeting and procurement at facility level as the initiatives in the pipeline.
The government through the health docket started revising the country’s health financing strategy in 2020 with the view of increasing access to affordable and quality health care services. It also signed a partnership agreement with PharmAccess as technical assistant in the roll-out of the plan.