By: Trifonia Chagoma
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in the health sector in Malawi and across Africa have called on the Government of Malawi to take urgent actions to increase access to budget information and to provide more opportunities for public engagement in the health budgeting process.
The development has been proposed in a joint communiqué by Mama Ye Malawi, Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) and Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) at the launch of the Africa Health Budget Network Value- Our Health campaign, at a session of the World/IMF Spring Meeting’s Civil Society Forum in Washington DC, USA on Friday.
The CSOs made a joint call for open and participatory health budgets with a view of curbing maternal and neonatal deaths, at the same time, showing value for health.
“We care about how much is spent on different health programs because we want better levels of health and the well-being for mothers and babies.
Significant progress has been made in reducing child mortality rates and the Government should be commended for achieving the Millennium Development Goal IV ahead of time,”
However, the newborn mortality rate has not reduced at the same speed and 14,000 newborns are dying each year, the large majority of which are preventable,” reads the communiqué available to The Malawi Star.
It further advises the government to be accountable in the way it spends public money on health, citizens and civil society need to be able to access sufficient detailed information about actual spending and the results of the investment.
“We ask the Government to continue showing that it values the people’s health by investing more especially for mothers and newborns. We urgently need our newborns to receive a clean and safe birth, and we need funding for sanitation within our clinics,” said Mathias Chatuluka of MamaYe Malawi.
Dalitso Kubalasa of MEJN hinted that there is a need for CSOs to be given the opportunity to influence decisions during the budget process, and to provide evidence to the Government about the most important health priorities of Malawi.
“According to the latest Open Budget Survey, Malawi has performed well on its budget transparency score.
We welcome the progress the country has made in providing its citizens with this vital information so that we can see how our money is spent. Malawi does not provide sufficient opportunities for the public to shape the health budget,” said Kubalasa.
Whereas Executive Director of the Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) George Jobe said, “The voice of the people must be heard during the budget process, so that it reflects public priorities. The Government must take steps now to address this.”
In addition, Aminu Magashi Garba from the Africa Health Budget Network indicated that public participation and open budgets can improve the health of its citizens because those budgets will be more influenced by the priorities of the people who use health services every day.
During the session, a panel was expected to look at the critical role that budget transparency and participation play in translating health commitments into more and better health spending for women and children in Africa.
The session will bring together the perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders from Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health to Civil Society and the media, all of which have an important role to play in ensuring public spending on health is in line with national priorities.