Nkafu Policy Institute: Experts Examine Challenges, Opportunities in Cameroon Healthcare Financing

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Health experts and those involved in the financing sector have noted that the lack of political will, the absence of policies to implement easy access to healthcare and mismanagement of health funds are some of the troubling factors affecting healthcare financing in Cameroon. The experts were speaking on June 17 on the theme “Health Care Financing in Cameroon: Challenges and Opportunities” moderated by Dr Vera Kum.

According to the 2019 Cameroon budget report written by the Nkafu Policy Institute, a total amount of 208 billion of Cameroon’s budget was allocated to health, representing 4.29 per cent of the budget. The main funding sources are households, the State, the private sector, and donors. Cameroon does not have a national health financing strategic plan. The various financing functions (resource collection; resource pooling and risk sharing mechanisms; and purchase of health services) do not meet a national logical framework.

Prof Nathanael Ojong said: “Health Care financing covers three core functions which relate to revenue collections, risk pulling and purchasing of health care services. Health Care Financing in Africa has been geared towards Out of Pocket Payments (OPP) unlike other countries in the global North. This is a challenge as countries in Africa are struggling to make earns meet.”

The proportion of the State budget allocated to health varies between 6 and 8 per cent since 2011 across the African continent. This proportion is below the commitment made by African leaders during the Abuja Summit in April 2001 where they recommended the allocation of 15 per cent of national budgets to health.

“Since that Abuja declaration, African countries are still falling short on the fifteen per cent that they promised to and that has implications. The current statistics of Cameroon mirror that across the African continent and we also know that the country falls short of the fifteen per cent target even when the country was in a successive growth rate,” Prof Nathanael Ojong added. “The state of health care financing in Cameroon is also linked to that of Out of Pocket Payments.”

To Dr Zakariah, he sees health care financing to be more holistic right from the independence of African countries, which was financed by the state. This means health care was largely free to citizens of various African countries. “At the moment, OPP outweighs that of the contribution of government funding. For the case of Cameroon, OPP is more than sixty per cent when it comes to health care service delivery,” Dr Zakariah said.

Public financial resources allocated to health are largely insufficient; this promotes dependency on external financing and households. It is estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic increased the extreme poverty rate from 24.5 per cent in 2019 to 25.3 per cent in 2021 and this has severely hampered the ability of many Cameroonians to secure access to health services out of pocket.

The aim of this session by the Nkafu Policy Institute was to identify the different financing sources in Cameroon; assess the challenges associated and opportunities available to finance health care in Cameroon and propose policy recommendations for effective financing of health care in Cameroon.

According to the WHO, at least half of the world’s population still suffers from a lack of essential healthcare services. Statistics show that over 800 million people spent at least ten per cent of their household income to pay for healthcare.

In the end, the panellists raised pertinent recommendations that need to be taken into consideration for smooth and effective financing. Some of which include Cameroonians need to get more knowledge on health insurance and how it works. Most Cameroonians seem not to be aware of the need to be insured; there should be implementations of policies favourable to health care financing as well as the political will to allocate funds for health care services and funds and resources allocated for health care should be well managed and used only for that purpose.

 

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