May 2018

{Photo Credit: Warren Zelman}Photo Credit: Warren Zelman

This story was originally published by Women Deliver.

In recent decades, a great deal of resources have been invested in the delivery of essential health services, especially through support to the six building blocks of strong health systems – health financing, health workforce, health information, health governance, medical products, and service delivery. These investments have been hugely important and effective in forming a foundation, supporting frontline health workers to save lives, and in securing unprecedented commitment to the common goal of achieving universal health coverage (UHC).

But the fact remains that over half the world’s population – women, children, and adolescents in particular - is still unable to access the high quality health services they need.

Women, children and adolescents remain underserved by health systems and suffer a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality, which endangers the broader well-being of the whole of society.

Elimase Kamanga is a mother, a midwife for more than 15 years, and the Senior Technical Advisor for Maternal and Newborn Health for the USAID-funded Organized Network of Services for Everyone’s (ONSE) Health Activity, led by MSH. Chisomo Mdalla, ONSE’s Chief Communications and Knowledge Exchange Officer, talked with Kamanga about her work to improve the quality of care for mothers and newborns in Malawi. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Elimase, can you tell us about how you got to where you are today?

It’s quite a long story. I grew up in a very poor family in a village near Kasungu, here in Malawi. But my mom still encouraged me to go to school. Even though I would go to school without shoes, without enough books, maybe even on an empty stomach, I still rose up to go to secondary school. I was also privileged to be selected by the government to go to the University of Malawi’s Kamuzu College of Nursing.

{Photo Credit: Warren Zelman}Photo Credit: Warren Zelman

This story was originally published on Devex

The World Health Organization recently issued a statement calling on all countries to make three specific commitments to universal health coverage and be prepared to announce them at the World Health Assembly, which begins May 21.

UHC — the assertion that every person must have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship — improves health. But that’s not all: It reduces poverty, creates jobs, drives economic growth, promotes gender equality, and prevents epidemics. It’s a momentous occasion and a great opportunity to start making real progress toward UHC.

But unless country commitments include efforts to strengthen pharmaceutical systems, communities will continue to struggle with inadequate health services and rising health costs that put their health and economic well-being in peril.

 {Photo credit: MSH}Loyce Pace of the Global Health Council moderates an expert panel at the WHA71 side event in Geneva, May 22, 2018. Panelists included Dr. Diane Gashumba, Rwanda’s Minister of Health; Catharina Boehme, CEO of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics; and Rüdiger Krech, Director of Health Systems and Innovation at WHO.Photo credit: MSH

Is the world safer today from the threat of infectious diseases than it was a generation ago?

It is true that we have more tools at our disposal: better surveillance and diagnostic systems, stronger frameworks and regulations, such as the Global Health Security Agenda and Joint External Evaluations (JEE), and a deeper understanding of how diseases spread and what is needed to stop them. It is also true that climate change, deforestation, population growth, and our proximity to farm and wild animals are making the threat of epidemics greater than ever before. Although the challenge is great, we have the knowledge to solve it. So what do we need to do?