By Robin Gomes
As part of the response to the pandemic, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has been issuing a series of policy briefs to provide ideas to governments on how to address the consequences of this crisis, leaving no one out. He launched his latest policy brief entitled, “Covid-19 and Universal Health Coverage”, with a video message on Wednesday.
He called for greater investments in universal health coverage saying the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of strong public healthcare systems and emergency preparedness for communities and economies globally.
Hard lessons from Covid-19
Guterres called on everyone to draw “hard lessons” from the pandemic, for which the world was not prepared. One of the lessons, he said, “is that under-investment in health can have a devastating impact on societies and economies.”
Nine months into the crisis, he pointed out, Covid-19 has claimed more than one million lives and infected more than 30 million people in 190 countries, with new waves of rising infections. It has cost the global economy $375 billion a month, about 500 million jobs have been lost so far, and decades of human development are going into reverse.
The pandemic has revealed utterly inadequate health systems, yawning gaps in social protection, and major structural inequalities within and between countries.
Healthcare for all
Even though health is a fundamental right and universal health coverage (UHC) a key target for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Guterres pointed out, at least half of the world’s population does not have full coverage of essential health services and over 800 million people spend at least 10 per cent of their household budgets to pay for health services.
The Secretary-General underlined the need for governments to invest in universal health coverage and to make public health programmes inclusive and equitable, without financial barriers. “Health treatment should not depend on financial status,” he insisted.
Pope Francis on healthcare
As Guterres launched his policy brief entitled, “Covid-19 and Universal Health Coverage”, on Wednesday, Pope Francis in the Vatican called for more equitable and inclusive healthcare systems that leave no one out. “Healthcare systems need to become much more inclusive and accessible to the disadvantaged and those living in low-income countries,” he said in a message to the virtual plenary meeting of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
“If anyone should be given preference,” the Pope said, “let it be the neediest and most vulnerable among us.” And when vaccines are available, there should be equitable access to them regardless of income, always starting with the least, he said.
The UN policy brief also made recommendations such as checking further transmission of Covid-19 through proven public health measures and a coordinated global response; protecting the delivery of other health services during the pandemic; ensuring that everyone, everywhere has access to future vaccines, tests and treatment; and strengthening preparedness.