The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group says the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is one of the recipients of the bank’s funding amounting to 22.3 million dollars in grants to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the President, AfDB, disclosed this in his keynote sddress at the 22 Ordinary Session of Assembly of Health Ministers of ECOWAS, on Friday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Ordinary Session of West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) is an annual meeting by the 15-member states to brainstorm on health-related issues in the region and possible solutions.
Adesina, who was represented by Dr. Beth Dunford, Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social, AfDB was requested to provide the ECOWAS Health Ministers an objective economic assessment that stresses the need for renewed efforts to ending the pandemic as a path to economic recovery.
He said that the grants aimed to strengthen national and regional entity capacity to improve disease surveillance and control systems and to strengthen health systems in the region.
“Bank support to ECOWAS to address the pandemic in the region is remarkable – it addresses the fight against COVID, and addresses health system strengthening and health workforce development in ECOWAS countries.
“The importance of quality health services, both as a development goal in its own right – and a foundation for achieving inclusive growth and other development goals – is widely recognised.
“Access to quality healthcare is essential for Africa’s population to thrive and reach its full potential.
“The bank is committed to promoting access to quality health services in accordance with aspiration 1-point- 3 of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 for a healthy and well- nourished citizenry and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 on good health and well-being,” he explained.
The president said that addressing health challenges could also boost progress across the nank’s priority areas – known as High 5s – given that poor health undermines economic productivity across all sectors and the disease had been estimated to cost Africa 2.4 trillion dollars annually.
“The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that if known health interventions were applied across Africa in order to reduce the disease burden, GDP growth could increase by half-a-percentage point per annum across the continent, over the next 20 years.
“Furthermore, outflows of resources from Africa due to medical tourism are growing, with Nigerians spending at least 1 billion dollars on the pursuit of healthcare outside of the heavy burden: the productivity cost of illness in Africa,^ he added.
According to him, these resources could be channelled back into Africa’s health services.
Adesina stated that it was a strategic framework for supporting regional member countries in accelerating development in the health sector.
“Developing quality health infrastructure is a triple imperative – health infrastructure is fundamental to public health, has significant economic impact, and is of strategic importance for governments.
The current landscape presents opportunities for investment to meet Africa’s health infrastructure challenge,” he explained.
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic, disease-burden transitions in many countries, and the unfolding Fourth Industrial Revolution present unique opportunities for the Bank to support member countries in building solid infrastructure foundations for capable health systems.
“Additionally, African countries are prioritising health in their national plans and a substantial proportion of national budgets.
“The Bank defines health infrastructure as physical structures and supporting systems, particularly finance, that are needed to deliver a continuum of health promotion, preventative, curative, rehabilitative and palliative services appropriate to the needs of the target population,” he said.
He noted that it included healthcare facilities at all levels, diagnostic facilities, equipment and technologies, and non-clinical infrastructure that is vital to the effective operation of healthcare services.
“However, it does not include other infrastructure supportive of the health sector, including workforce training institutions, logistics infrastructure, research and development facilities and manufacturing facilities,” he said.
The AfDB president added that health strategies prioritised infrastructure and public-private collaboration.
“Kenya, Sudan, Egypt and Morocco have submitted funding requests for seven operations – five are non- sovereign operations and two sovereign operations.
“The bank has the potential to fill an important niche as a health infrastructure financier. The bank draws on its core expertise in infrastructure development and working in partnership with other development partners in support of national health system strengthening plans.
“The Bank has a long history of support in health and has scaled up its assistance in response to recent health crises.
“We have the capacity to deploy a range of financing instruments, including private-sector operations and public- private partnerships, to help overcome barriers to private investment in the health sector and address the overall financing gap,” he said.
He said that the bank could offer mixed infrastructure investments that connect health facilities to energy, water and Information and Communications Technology connections, to enable better quality and more innovative health service delivery.
“The strategy also sets out how the bank will build up and consolidate its comparative advantage in health infrastructure.
“The goal of this strategy is to secure increased access to quality health services for the people of Africa by 2030 – to improve quality of life and promote Sustainable Development Goal 3 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 goal on health.
“The objective is to support Regional Member countries in their efforts to accelerate the development of quality health infrastructure in Africa, and to ensure that individuals and communities receive the health services they need without financial hardship.
“Out of 31 countries that have been assessed to date by WHO AFRO, 94 percent prioritize health in their development plans; 70 percent mention health infrastructure in their national plans; and 30 percent mention public-private collaboration specifically in their plans,” he added.
According to him, The strategy is tightly focused on three categories of health infrastructure that match the bank’s comparative advantage, while providing the flexibility to respond to the diverse needs of Regional Member countries.
“Primary health care infrastructure for under-served populations. This includes supporting infrastructure investment to ensure that facilities are connected to water and sanitation, energy, transport and communications services.
“Secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities, involving developing new secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities, alongside specialist facilities for cancer, dialysis and pain management. These investments will be particularly relevant in countries where the burden of non-communicable diseases is growing rapidly.
“Diagnostic infrastructure that utilises diverse delivery models, including public-private collaborations to address serious bottlenecks in efficient and effective diagnosis of diseases across the continent,” he said.
Adesina, however said that across all the main categories of health infrastructure described above, the bank would invest in Information and Communications Technology connectivity to support innovations in health service delivery, including for instance mobile services, tele-medicine and other digital health solutions as well as improvements in health information systems.
“The bank will lead the set-up of national or sub-national-level digital-health platforms that integrate with existing infrastructure to significantly expand access to outpatient care.
“The bank’s investments in health infrastructure will be packaged with knowledge work, policy dialogue and technical assistance, in partnerships with other health sector actors. This support will focus on effective health financing strategies, including the expansion of health insurance to ensure access for low-income households.
“This support will ensure that the bank’s investments are utilised effectively and are sustainable and accessible on an equitable basis.
“The bank will apply strict selectively criteria and clear principles to guide its health infrastructure investments. Proposed investments will be screened to ensure they are focused on the bank’s areas of comparative advantage and anchored in credible national health system strengthening strategies with a clear division of labour with other development partners,” he explained.
NAN reportd that Guinea and Mali were absent at the 22nd Ordinary Session of West Africa Ministers of Health.(NAN)