By Amie Sanneh
The Ministry of Health and Social and Welfare on Thursday, 10 July 2014, convened a meeting with its partners to brief them on the Global Compact of the International Health Partnership Plus (IHP+) which the Gambia signed in May 2012.
Mr. Omar Sey, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, said the International Health Partnership (IHP+) was launched in London in 2007 He described it as one of the most important global health initiatives of their time in which signatories commit to work effectively to build sustainable health systems and improve health outcomes. He said IHP+ is a group of partners who share a common interest in health outcomes under the Paris Principles of National ownership, Alignment with national systems, Harmonization between agencies, Managing for results and Mutual accountability and the Accra principles on aid effectiveness into practice.
The Health Minister added that it is a renewed effort to accelerate progress towards the health MDGs and other health outcomes by making international development assistance more effective and efficient in addressing underlying health system barriers to improved delivery of health services.
The IHP+, said Minister Sey, aims to re-popularise the horizontal health systems strengthening approach which focuses on building up the capacity of aid recipient country health systems and services. He said it also aims to better coordinate global health actors at different levels, whether international or local. IHP+, he continued, is a response not only to scale up donor attention to the health MDGs but also the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the G8 Summit commitments to social protection.
He described this initiative as timely for his Ministry considering that they now have a National Health Policy (2012-2020) and a National Health Strategic Plan (2014-2020) which outlines interventions that are consistent with Vision 2016 and 2020, the MDGs and PAGE. He stressed the need for a coordinated mechanism to be instituted to ensure harmonization and effective use of resources based on “One Country Led Compact.” He added that the country’s implementation of the IHP+ principles will be based on “One Sector Policy, One Sector Strategic Plan and One Sector Monitoring and Evaluation System.”
The Health Minister explained that part of government’s commitments after joining the IHP+ includes, working with national stakeholders and international agencies to develop a common vision and strategy for the health sector. He added that they will also develop improved health financing mechanisms to increase access to health services for poor citizens and strengthen national management systems.
Speaking earlier, Mr. Abdoulie Jallow, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, said health financing is one of the functions of the health system. He said it is a key determinant of health system performance in terms of equity, efficiency and quality. Financing health care, he continued, requires collaboration of government, donors and other partners and the beneficiaries.
PS Jallow said in the Gambia, available statistics indicates that over 66 per cent of the total health funding comes from donors raising high challenges of sustainability and predictability of funding to the sector. In addition, he said, cost of providing health care continues to rise due to increasing demand, changes in diagnostic and therapeutic technologies, inflation and currency fluctuations. He noted that despite increases in international aid, they have not achieved desired gains in health equity.
“There has been a tendency to focus on vertical programmes and specific diseases, rather than supporting countries to develop sustainable health financing systems that would lead to universal health coverage,” said the Finance PS.
For his part, Dr. Charles Sago Moses, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in the Gambia, said it has been over two years since the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare first called all health stakeholders to a consensus building meeting on the decision to join the IHP+ initiative. Since then, he said, a number of milestones have been reached in terms of the governance of the health sector.
Dr. Moses said the onus is upon the development partners to agree with the government, through the Health Ministry on the specific mechanisms for a coordinated support of the health programmes and priorities as outlined in their Strategic Plan.
The WHO Country Rep. told the meeting that the IHP+ initiative recommends to countries that signed on to the global compact to develop country compacts to achieve the envisaged coordination of development assistance.”The country compact can be defined as time bound agreement, negotiated between the government represented by the Health Ministry and the main partners in the health sector, committing all the parties that sign on to the agreement to channel existing and future investments to the achievement of the country health priorities through the implementation of the National Health Strategic Plan,” he said.