Monday 13th December 2021: The World Bank and the World Health Organisation have disclosed that more than half a billion people are being pushed or pushed further into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets.
This disclosure was contained in two complementary reports, which were launched on Universal Health Coverage Day.
Both reports focus on the devastating impact of COVID-19 on people’s ability to obtain healthcare and pay for it.
This is according to a press statement published on Sunday on the website of the World Bank titled ‘More than half a billion people pushed or pushed further into extreme poverty due to health care costs’.
The press statement read in part, “New evidence compiled by the World Health Organization and the World Bank shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to halt two decades of global progress towards Universal Health Coverage. The organizations also reveal that more than half a billion people are being pushed or pushed further into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets.”
The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was quoted as stressing the need for governments to fasten efforts to ensure access to health services.
He said, “There is no time to spare. All governments must immediately resume and accelerate efforts to ensure every one of their citizens can access health services without fear of the financial consequences. This means strengthening public spending on health and social support, and increasing their focus on primary health care systems that can provide essential care close to home.”
He added, “Prior to the pandemic, many countries had made progress. But it was not robust enough. This time we must build health systems that are strong enough to withstand shocks, such as the next pandemic and stay on course towards universal health coverage.”
The Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank, Juan Pablo Uribe, was also quoted as stating that prior to the pandemic, about one billion people spent more than 10 per cent of their household budget on health. He also stressed the role of the government in addressing this.
He said, “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, almost one billion people were spending more than 10 per cent of their household budget on health. This is not acceptable, especially since the poorest people are hit hardest. Within a constrained fiscal space, governments will have to make tough choices to protect and increase health budgets.”
The statement added that the new WHO/World Bank reports warned that financial hardship would likely become more intense as poverty grows, incomes fall, and governments face tighter fiscal constraints.