Blog Posts by Anteneh Tesfaye

{Photo credit: Anteneh Tesfaye Lemma/MSH.}Photo credit: Anteneh Tesfaye Lemma/MSH.

Meeting my predecessor

There he was: Kenaw! I was seeing him in person for the first time. Kenaw is a friendly guy; we greeted like we’d known each other awhile. I hear from my Health for All: Campaign for Universal Health Coverage in Africa (Health for All) colleagues that he was wonderful to work with and got along with almost everyone in the office within a few weeks of arriving. Although I hadn't had the opportunity to work with him, I sprinted from the foundation he laid to further the campaign’s activities as I joined MSH and Health for All in January 2013.

 {Photo by Rui Pires. Graphic by Paula Champagne.}Haiku for Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC Day) by Ian Sliney, MSH senior director for health systems strengthening.Photo by Rui Pires. Graphic by Paula Champagne.

Today, over 500 organizations and individuals worldwide are celebrating the first-ever Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC Day). All week, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) bloggers have shared stories, analysis, photos, and videos, in support of UHC Day and health for all:

Partnering to Make UHC a Reality
"For UHC to succeed worldwide, the global health community must generate what’s still missing: a fully-fledged roadmap for UHC efforts and an architecture for global UHC governance," blogs Jonathan Jay in Devex.

Adding Medicines to the UHC Equation
“Every person, no matter where they live, should have access to quality health services without risking financial hardship. But accessing quality health services is only half of the equation,” blogs Francis Aboagye-Nyame. “Every person should also have available to them medicines that are affordable, safe, effective, and of assured quality.”

 {Photo credit: Anteneh Lemma/MSH}The Health for All Campaign in Kenya is hosting a series of debates on universal health coverage.Photo credit: Anteneh Lemma/MSH

“I wish I had called this event,” said Mr. Simone Ole Kirgotty, CEO of Kenyan National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). This came as a surprise to many since the CEO was bombarded with critical questions and comments about the activities of the organization he has been leading for the last two years. “If it was new for me to lead such a controversial organization, I would have run away after all these comments,” added Mr. Kirgotty cheerfully.

It was during a public debate in Nairobi, organized by the Health for All: Campaign for Universal Health Coverage in Africa (Health for All Campaign), that the CEO of Kenya NHIF made these remarks. The debate, entitled: “Improving Communications to Scale up Public Engagement with NHIF: Challenges and Prospects,” was part of a series of debates being conducted in seven counties in Kenya. As highlighted by Dr. Daraus Bukenya, Country Representative for MSH Kenya, the major objective of the debates is to get clarity on NHIF activities, to create a platform for community engagement, and to identify and put together recommendations to NHIF to work toward universal health coverage in Kenya. The first debate was held on November 17, 2014 in Nyeri.

 {Photo credit: MSH}State Minister of Health Dr. Kebede Worku thanked MSH for continued support the last ten years.Photo credit: MSH

“MSH is like my mother,’’ said Yimenu, a young medical professional from East Gojam, a place about 600 kilometers from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. “I have been suffering for five years and it was because of MSH that I started living all over again.”

Yimenu is the voice of thousands: the symbol of partnership that contributed significantly to the country’s increasingly strengthened health sector to save lives.

“I ask no more than an opportunity to help others,” said Yimenu looking at the crowd with complete joy.

[Yimenu testifies about MSH's impact.] {Photo credit: MSH}Yimenu testifies about MSH's impact.Photo credit: MSH

It was during the celebration of Management Sciences for Health (MSH) Ethiopia’s 10th anniversary that Yimenu gave this testimony about the support he got from MSH. The event was a celebration of the ten years journey. Challenges were faced, frustrations overcame, mountains and rivers crossed. It was a journey of courage, determination and most of all, the noblest mission of saving lives.

 {Photo credit: MSH Ethiopia.}Panelists at the UHC symposium (from left): Jonathan D. Quick (MSH), Mr. Amsalu Shiferaw (WHO), Dr. Yayehyirad, (independent health scholar), Prof. Damen (Addis Ababa University).Photo credit: MSH Ethiopia.

It came as a surprise to many attending the symposium—health insurance in Ethiopia had been talked about in the media for a while, but most didn’t know the preparations had gone this far. It was at a high level session that the Acting Director General of the Ethiopian Health Insurance Agency, Dr. Mengistu Bekele, explained the work the government has been doing to start the implementation of the twin health insurance schemes. Dr. Mengistu indicated the government’s effort to introduce the health insurance scheme is part of its move towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). “Of course it can be done!” said Dr. Mengistu reaffirming the commitment and tying up his presentation with the theme of the symposium: “Achieving UHC in low- and middle-income countries: Can it be done?”

 {Photo credit: Anteneh Tesfaye/MSH.}(from left) Dereje Haile and Tsedenia Gebremarkos during the filming of a health insurance themed episode of the popular ETV show, Question and Answer Competition.Photo credit: Anteneh Tesfaye/MSH.

We will sprint in the last round like our athletes. That is the Ethiopian style.

So says the famous Ethiopian comedian Dereje Haile. His team is lagging behind in the first round of the popular Ethiopian Television (ETV) game show, Question and Answer Competition.

Haile is the source of constant laughter since before the filming of the show, when he performed a quick physical exercise, as if about to enter into a boxing ring. His teammate, Kora Music Award winner and pop star, Tsedenya Gebremarkos, confirms Haile’s words, and promises the audience they will do better in the second round.

On the other side of the stage stand the other two contestants: the well-known Ethiopian poet, Tagel Seifu, and the famous journalist and actress, Haregewoyn Assefa.

They look confident, leading in the first round.

 {Photo credit: Anteneh Tesfaye Lemma/MSH.}Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Health James Macharia (left) and MSH President Jonathan D. Quick (right) sign the canvas pledge.Photo credit: Anteneh Tesfaye Lemma/MSH.

I felt like I had traded my mother’s health for my children’s schooling. It was a tough choice, and I cried every day.

This emotional remark was made by Lucy Njoki, a Kenyan mother and grandmother, at the Health for All Campaign Launch Event on April 28, 2014, in Nairobi. She had been forced to choose between paying for her children’s education or her mother’s urgently needed medical treatment. She could not afford both. Affordable and accessible health care remain an unrealized dream for many Kenyan citizens.  

Unfortunately, Lucy’s story is not uncommon. Lucy represents millions of people who are pushed into poverty due to catastrophic health expenditures in Kenya. The Health for All: Campaign for Universal Health Coverage in Africa is building awareness and advocating for universal health coverage (UHC) in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Implemented effectively, UHC ensures that all people have access to the quality services they need, without suffering financial hardship.

 {Photo credit: Anteneh Tesfaye Lemma/MSH.}Producing a TV spot on social health insurance in Ethiopia.Photo credit: Anteneh Tesfaye Lemma/MSH.

It was sudden and unexpected. It was also funny: the ball exploded and deflated right under Teferi's foot. But everybody started to worry when the director screamed: “We can’t shoot the next scene without the football! Somebody get me a new one!”

I looked at the young boy actor. Tears were about to wash his gloomy face as the ball changed into a useless piece of flat plastic right before his cloudy eyes. "This is bad!" I said to myself. "The kid might not be willing to act anymore; we might be forced to start the production all over again!"

We were shooting one of the scenes for a TV public service announcement. Producing the TV spot is one of the major activities for the Health for All Campaign–the campaign supporting the popularization of Ethiopia’s New Health Insurance Scheme.

It was ironic: the TV spot promotes preparing for unforeseen emergencies. Yet, once the ball became useless, we realized that we were not ready for an emergency ourselves.

A children's band plays music during the Health for All Campaign launch event in Addis Ababa on March 14. {Photo credit: Beth Brundage Murphy for MSH.}Photo credit: Beth Brundage Murphy for MSH.

The Health for All campaign was officially launched in Ethiopia at an event on March 14 in Addis Ababa. Over 100 participants, including partners, government representatives, and contributing artists, attended the colorful ceremony at Harmony Hotel. A children’s band entertained the guests with music, and a community theatre group, Music Mayday, portrayed the importance of health insurance for all.

Hiwot Emishaw, the coordinator of the Health for All campaign, opened the ceremony. “One of the key goals of the global UHC movement is to increase social protection for health coverage by 50 percent, and decrease out of pocket expenditures,” she said.

W/o Roman Tesfay, director general of the Ethiopian Health Insurance Agency (EHIA), gave a detailed presentation on the new initiatives of community-based health insurance and social health insurance in Ethiopia, and called upon stakeholders to support the initiative.

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