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Activists call for health tax

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) attending a virtual meeting on health financing on Monday highlighted the need for having a separate tax to finance health emergencies without straining the health system.

They said though the government has over the years put up taxes on different commodities to fund health, accountability has been hard since the money goes to the consolidated fund, not a specific health account.

Julius Mukunda, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) said the current coronavirus pandemic has shown why the country needs such since then it would be easy to demand accountability.

Dr Diana Nsubuga, the Deputy Country Director Living Goods International who expounded on why the country needs to urgently forge ways of reducing dependence on donors and out of pocket to fund healthcare said there’s already a problem in waiting when it comes to access to sexual and reproductive health commodities since the usual funder World Bank directed that the money be diverted to funding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Bank diverted $15million from reproductive health and Diana Tibesigwa a policy officer with World Vision says people who need these services will have to incur a huge out of cost expenditure to afford them.

She said for sexual and reproductive health commodities, there is no government funding allocated.

The 10% of the health budget allocated to sexual and reproductive health is contributed by donors and Tibesigwa wonders how Uganda will fulfill the commitments increasing to 28% by 2022 made by President Museveni at the International Conference on Population and Development summit last year.

However, generally, in terms of percentages, the government contributes only 17% to health financing and yet 48% pay for their health services out of pocket. The rest of the money is contributed by donors.

The single critical intervention that could change this picture, the activists noted is the National Health Insurance Scheme which is still being discussed in parliament as the health committee is currently holding a retreat to discuss and put the bill together.

The scheme paired with stopping wastage of public resources, Mukunda says would quickly revamp the health system especially if specific targets attached with specific amounts are set on what to achieve.

For him, currently even as the government has received a lot of funding for COVID-19 both in terms of supplementary and donations, proper accountability is not being made.

Last week, Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Dr Diana Atwiine said that so far they have received about Shs 119 billion whereas Shs 25 billion was the initial funding received before getting supplementary of shs 94 billion.

This is just government funding but Mukunda says they can’t satisfactorily account for other monies that they got.


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