The front line of Universal Health Coverage

Last week we shared a video of the Elders Graça Machel and Mary Robinson visiting Tanzania to talk about universal healthcare. A story in The Guardian covering that same trip illuminates the interdependence of all these different issues – healthcare, education, poverty and others.

A Tanzanian rickshaw driver is hit by a lorry, breaking his hip and suffering burns. Without the money to continue paying the hospital he has to leave before being properly recovered and his injuries are still disabling. His wife has to cut her hours working in order to take care of him, along with their daughters. To patch up the dramatic drop in the family finances the oldest sons have to leave school to start work.

“At a stroke,” says Lucy Lamble in the article, “the family’s educational and economic aspirations had been shattered.”

The new Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, in his first speech to the WHO staff, said, “For me, the key question of universal health coverage is an ethical one. Do we want our fellow citizens to die because they are poor? Universal health coverage, as I said earlier, is a human rights issue.”

Universal health coverage is an essential pillar in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Without effective, free and attainable healthcare, eradicating poverty and promoting education is hard, if not impossible.

The Gardiner Foundation believes that the most sustainable way for someone to lift themselves out of poverty is through their own small business. Not only does this benefit the individual but their family, community and even national economy, all using a knock-on effect. Ill health, accidents and the lack of access to healthcare and family planning all put that at risk. Equally, relieving poverty can lessen those risks. But it is clear one cannot move forward without the other.

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