Kathmandu, April 4
The World Health Organisation today called upon countries, including Nepal, in its South-East Asia Region to step-up efforts towards universal health coverage, to provide quality health services to all people when and where they need them, without having to suffer financial hardship.
“Universal health coverage is central to improving health and well-being – a fundamental human right. It is also imperative for a country’s well-being as healthier populations create more productive economies,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of New Delhi-based WHO South-East Asia said in a press release today, on the occasion of the World Health Day which is celebrated on April 7 every year. The theme of this year’s World Health Day is ‘Universal Health Coverage: everyone, everywhere’.
Universal health coverage is a flagship programme of WHO in the region since 2014. In recent years, all member states have taken several initiatives which have helped improve access to essential health services. However, challenges remain.
Nearly half of the WHO South-East Asia Region’s population still lacks full coverage of essential health services.
Significant inequalities persist. Poorer people, and those in rural areas, have lower access than richer people, and those living in urban areas. Some 65 million are pushed into extreme poverty, mainly due to paying out-of-pocket for medicines, especially for non-communicable diseases, the release said.
Dr Khetrapal Singh said more efforts are needed to increase human resources for health, enhance skills of health workers and aid staff retention in rural and hard-to-reach area, to ensure quality health services are available for everyone, everywhere.
Health services must be planned around the needs of the people, she said, highlighting that by 2020 more of the region’s population will be over 60 than under-five. Hence, ageing population, reversing the growing burden of non-communicable diseases should be the focus of front-line services.
A version of this article appears in print on April 05, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.