Making Our Dream Choices; Creating Sustainable Health Financing for Universal Health Coverage in Malawi

10th July, 2020, Golden Peacock Hotel

 Journalists Association Against AIDS (JournAIDS) and Facilitators for Community Transformation (FACT) are jointly implementing a project called sustainable health financing for universal health coverage. The project is being implemented in the context of the proposed health financing reforms as outlined in the 2017-2022 Health Sector Strategic Plan. The project has been designed to build multi-stakeholder engagement to enhance citizen engagement and dialogue on health financing policies and reforms. For instance, the proposed creation of the National Health Fund and the National Health Insurance Scheme which are all vital towards moving to UHC.

At present, Malawi’s sustainable health financing reforms are taking shape slowly, while many CSOs are not effectively participating due to lack of capacity, while there is a general lack of awareness on health financing reforms such those being carried out by Government. For instance, turning all central hospitals into autonomous bodies (trusts), creation of a national health fund and the NHIS. The project is very critical taking into account that Malawi’s health sector faces a lot of challenges due to wastage of financial resources due to corruption, inefficiency.  The particular project is very unique as it seeks to bring the UHC/health financing reforms closer to the general public and the civil society.

Even the smallest fee for healthcare can have a catastrophic impact on people living in poverty. For some, user fees necessitate the selling of household assets to pay for vital care, jeopardizing their livelihoods. The Ministry of Health has argued that Malawi’s healthcare fees will remain optional and that the poorest patients will therefore be protected from their impacts.[1] Yet situations where user fees are in effect compulsory are already widespread. Lilongwe city has small number of primary healthcare centres serving an estimated total population of one million people. Each centre shuts in the afternoon, leaving patients with no choice but to pay fees for hospital-based care outside of clinic opening hours, or go without treatment altogether.[2] For patients living close to fee-charging facilities only, bypass fees are seen simply as ‘a punishment or abandonment’

Recently a project inception meeting for the project was conducted in Lilongwe which was vital as a strategic intervention to formally introduce the project to all stakeholders. The inception meeting was graced by the presence of two key legislators from the Parliamentary Committee on health and HIV represented by Hon. Darlington Harawa and Hon. Enock Phale who all stressed on the importance of the project.

Another key point was the legislators affirmed their full support to the project and called on other development partners other than OSISA to co-finance the project so that it is widely scaled up in the country for a longer duration than the 2-year time-frame. Most importantly was the fact that key stakeholders in the meeting also lauded the project as coming at the most critical time, when the Covid19 pandemic is raging which could have a negative impact towards achieving UHC progress in Malawi.

  • Achieved Outputs and Deliverables
  • An inception meeting conducted with at least 30 stakeholders participating and others joining virtually using the Blue Jeans virtual platform. At this inception meeting, key UHC activists and international organizations such as AIDS Health Care Foundation (AHF) also joined including the Members of Parliament from the parliamentary committee on health and HIV
  • Media coverage at the inception balanced up with both Times Radio, Times Newspaper and the Zodiak Radio and TV producing stories on the event.
  • Better branding and acknowledgement of OSISA as a funder at the project inception meeting reflecting good standards of branding and communication of the project, in which materials produced will be utilized to positively communicate about the project throughout its lifecycle