Launch of the Revised National Health Policy in Ghana

The UN welcomes Ghana’s revised National Health Policy which seeks to address key health determinants and builds resilience for public health emergencies.

On behalf of the United Nations in Ghana, I would like to express our profound appreciation to the Ministry of Health and the Government of Ghana for the opportunity to make this statement at the launch of this very important document - the latest National Health Policy. It is gratifying to note that this policy resonates with other global initiatives, including the Sustainable Development Goals Declaration, principles of the African Union Agenda 2063, the Astana Declaration on Primary Health Care (2018), Universal Health Coverage (UHC) 2030 Compact, and the UHC Political Declaration adopted at the UN High-Level Meeting in September 2019. This is a perfect example of what can be achieved when, with Government leadership, we work together as partners, with a common vision and a common goal, to serve the people of Ghana. 

The constitution of the World Health Organisation (WHO) (1946) envisages “…the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.” The preamble defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Understanding health as a human right creates a legal obligation on states to ensure access to timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality as well as to providing for the underlying determinants of health, such as safe and potable water, sanitation, food, housing, health-related information and education, and gender equality. Congratulations to the Ministry of Health for developing a health policy that encompasses these determinants.

It’s for these reasons that the United Nations has led several initiatives and mobilized the global community, towards a world where everyone has access to health as defined in the WHO constitution.

Therefore, the UN welcomes this revised National Health Policy which seeks to address the key determinants of health in the spirit of “health in all policies” and builds resilience to respond effectively to public health emergencies such as COVID-19, which we are confronted with today. I congratulate the Government of Ghana for achieving this huge milestone.

UN in Ghana & The Health Sector

The UN in Ghana continues to support the efforts of the Government to achieve the objectives of making health services paramount to national development and accessible to everyone as defined in the WHO constitution. Since the 1960’s, the UN in Ghana has supported the Government in the development of health sector policies, strategies, protocols and guidelines at all levels such as National Adolescent policy and strategy 2016-2020, National nutrition policy, the two editions of national newborn strategy and action plan 2016-2018 and 2018-2023, National HIV and AIDS strategic plan 2016-2020, National Health Financing Strategy, National Action Plan for Health Security, among others. Specifically, the UN provided technical and financial support for the development of the National Health Policy that we are launching today.

The UN has contributed to evidence generation to guide critical decision-making processes and worked with Government, non-Governmental Organizations and broader civil society to manage health programs and deliver quality healthcare to all people living in Ghana.  In the true spirit of an agenda for Sustainable development, the UN has supported health sector interventions including Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAHN) and HIV whilst strengthening the health sector’s capacity to respond to public health emergencies.

Recently, the UN has supported 2 rounds of polio campaigns in September and October this year to protect more than 5 million children under 5 years old against the polio virus and we are working with the Ghana Health Service to conduct a mass vaccination campaign against Yellow Fever starting on the 12th of November.

The UN acknowledges the commitment and the resolve, through a strong and well-coordinated institutional framework, of the Government, the tireless efforts of the people of Ghana and all stakeholders in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Your commitment and sacrifices such as restriction of movements, closing your businesses for weeks, legislation for the wearing of face masks, local production of PPEs, tax incentives for health workers, provision free water for over 6 months, facilitation of the construction of the Infectious Disease Centre, local production of PPEs, among others  have contributed to the reduction of COVID-19 cases and impressive recovery rate of over 98%, while ensuring that there is continuity in the provision of essential health services across the country.

We have provided technical assistance to coordinate the COVID-19 response, strengthen laboratory capacity to test for COVID-19 cases, build capacity to improve surveillance, trace contacts and strengthen health systems including training of health workers and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to adequately manage COVID-19 whilst protecting frontline health workers. COVID 19 has taught the world the need for a more resilient health system and indeed all related sectors that impact on the health of individuals, families and communities and it is refreshing to see that the revised national health policy provides a cross sectoral response and collaboration among Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), and other identifiable organizations working within the ‘Health-in-All’ and the ‘One Health Policy’ frameworks. Therefore, we recognize that this is the right time to refocus investment to the health sector to build back better to ensure systems resilience.

The UN, through collective efforts in the spirit of “one UN” is supporting communities and districts that were most affected by COVID-19 to minimize the impact on the disruption of essential social services such as health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene services through the Multi Partner Trust Fund (MPTF). UN agencies are also filling critical gaps in the country’s COVID-19 response through the procurement equipment and training of doctors and critical care nurses for case management, provision of PPEs for case management facilities, sustaining the operationalization of contact tracing and translocation of COVID-19 patients by the National Ambulance Service. The UNCPRP which focuses on 8 pillars (coordination, risk communication, surveillance, case management and IPC, Point of Entry, Laboratory and Operational support and Logistics) aims to raise USD$ 22,780,500.00 for the COVID-19 response. This cross sectoral approach is in tandem with what is envisaged in the National Health Policy in addressing causes and consequences of health problems. 

CALL TO ACTION

Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Policies are very critical in determining the needs of people and finding the right approach to addressing those needs. However, to have policies are one thing, and ensuring their implementation is another.

Together – Government, development partners, the United Nations, Civil Society Organizations and all stakeholders – we must strengthen our resolve to make this policy and all other policies operational. We must pay particular attention to our implementation processes if our collective efforts at addressing the health needs of the people we serve are to make positive impacts. 

In implementing the National Health Policy (as well as the UHC Roadmap and the Ghana Beyond Aid Strategy), it will be important that the Government’s focus on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) includes the strengthening of all the 6 building blocks of the health system and strengthening of primary health care. The aim should be to have a health system that is efficient, responsive and resilient to equitably deliver quality health services and resist future shocks.

Building on the strong investment mindset of the Ghana Government, a focus on reforms that improve the efficiency of health financing schemes and ensure its viability and sustainability will also be important. Improving domestic resource allocation to various sector - immunization, malaria control, maternal and child health and reducing dependency on donors in this area will be key to realizing the ambition of Ghana Beyond Aid which this nation is so passionately and rightly wedded to.

It is gratifying to note that mental health has been singled out as an area requiring concerted action. This is commendable and it will important that this is done as part of a broader focus on NCDs and ensuring that key services are part of the benefit package of NHIS to the extent possible.

On the determinants of health, it is suggested that over and above air pollution and environmental protection other climate change impacts on health should be addressed. Again, the various key risk factors requiring multispectral action such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse, diet and exercise will need a special focus as part of comprehensive approach to address NCDs.

Multi-sectoral collaboration is key. It has been established that the health of humans is intricately linked with the health of animals and the environment. This is the concept of One Health and tomorrow is International One Health Day. One Health is central to overcoming the adverse health outcomes of zoonotic diseases such as COVID 19.

CONCLUSION:

Once again, I congratulate Ghana and all partners involved in the process of revising this National Health Policy once again for achieving this huge milestone.

Your Excellency, Ladies and gentlemen,

Having supported the development of the National Health Policy and the Universal Health Coverage roadmap, I would like to assure you of the UN ‘s commitment to support the implementation towards achieving the SDGs (as articulated in the UN COVID 19 Socio-Economic Response Plan). The Socio-Economic Response and Recovery Plan (SERRP) is one of three critical components of the UN’s efforts to save lives, protect people, and rebuild better with an estimated budget of $142,819,603.

Thank you for your attention.

 

Speech by
Author
Charles Abani
UN Resident Coordinator
UN
Charles Abani
UN entities involved in this initiative
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
UNFPA
United Nations Population Fund
UNICEF
United Nations Children’s Fund
WHO
World Health Organization