9 February 2019

Excessively High Costs Drive 100 Million People around World into Poverty Annually, Secretary-General Tells ‘Investing in Health’ Leadership Event

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres' remarks at the Africa leadership meeting on “Investing in Health”, in Addis Ababa today:

We should all be encouraged by the presence here today of so many political leaders and key health partners.

Good health is at the centre of our vision of a more sustainable, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous future.  It is both an outcome and a driver of progress.  Investments in health, and more broadly, in the continent’s human capital, are among the best steps we can take to ensure the success of the [African Union’s] Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

But, we need those investments to be targeted and smart.  This means focusing on high-quality, people-centred, physical and mental health services for everyone, everywhere.  Tragically, for too many, health is inaccessible, unaffordable or altogether unavailable.  Each year, 100 million people around the world are driven into poverty because health-care costs are too high.  This is unacceptable.

Health is a fundamental human right.  That is why the Sustainable Development Goals include a target of achieving universal health coverage.  Funding is crucial.  Current expenditures are simply not enough.  We need to expand the fiscal space for health and reduce fragmentation in donor support.  I call on all partners to ensure successful replenishments of the multilateral global health financing mechanisms.  For their part, Governments need to strengthen financial management and collect more taxes.  So-called “sin taxes”, for example, on tobacco, alcohol and added sugar, have produced positive public health outcomes.

Africa’s leaders have made strong commitments, and I applaud the tracking of those commitments through the Africa Scorecard on Domestic Financing for Health.  I welcome the call to action being made at this meeting to increase domestic investments in health and to reorient Africa’s health spending to build resilient health systems.  This Call to action is a milestone towards this September’s High‑level Meeting of the General Assembly on Universal Health Coverage.

The United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) stand ready to support the African Union and your member States across the health agenda, including on sustainable health financing.  In particular, the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All coordinated by the World Health Organization is an important effort by 12 leading global health and development agencies.  We must also leverage the power of the private sector and civil society.  For my part, last September, I launched a strategy for financing the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, and I will continue pressing to scale up public and private finance and investment flows in the health arena.

There is, of course, no “one-size-fits-all” solution.  Each country must walk its own path towards this objective.  But, with each new baby safely delivered and vaccinated in a rural village, each new case of malaria treated and each infectious outbreak averted, we are building the foundations for the sophisticated systems needed for healthy societies.

Your leadership remains critical.  Together we can make health a reality for all.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.