H.E. Ahmed Naseem
Minister of Health of the Republic of Maldives,
at the High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage
21 September 2023, 10:00am
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In September 2019, world leaders approved the High-Level Declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). It marked our collective will to recognize healthcare as a right. This declaration was followed by Member States' commitment in October at the UN General Assembly to invest in primary healthcare.
This commitment was fuelled by a dedication to invest in four pivotal areas revolving around primary healthcare. These areas encompassed reducing the financial burden on patients, implementing impactful health interventions against diseases, fortifying the healthcare workforce and infrastructure, and enhancing governance capabilities.
For the Maldives, our distinct challenge lies in our small island communities lacking the population density conducive to a thriving private sector. Consequently, the government spearheads innovative interventions. Our goal is to ensure equitable, quality healthcare access despite geographical limitations. To achieve this, we are transforming our approach, bringing healthcare services to our people’s doorstep and enhancing their pathway to advanced medical services, underpinned by expanding financial protection measures.
The 2019 High-Level Declaration was a significant catalyst in promoting UHC, inspiring the Maldives to elevate its capacity to coordinate country-specific interventions and mobilise more resources. It is with pride that I note our interventions are in full conformity with the regional targets set out by the WHO, as they are in alignment with our SDG targets.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Political resolve of President Solih, combined with the decentralization of governance, has created a conducive environment in Maldives for priority action towards meeting our international commitments. Though the unforeseen disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic tested our resolve, we persevered. Investments in digitization, resource harmonization, and most importantly the revitalization of PHC and multi-tasking and multi-disciplinary healthcare teams, propelled us back on track.
Embracing lessons learned from the pandemic, coupled with emerging technologies and novel service approaches, we have reinvigorated our healthcare mechanisms, enhancing efficiency and expanding healthcare delivery.
Today, I stand here proud to share that our efforts, guided by the international community, the UN Agencies, WHO in particular, have borne fruit.
Our nation has made remarkable strides in achieving universal health coverage indicators, and the burden of out-of-pocket expenses has significantly reduced. The national vaccination programme offers free mandatory childhood and adult vaccinations, which has led to the elimination of many diseases such as polio, measles, and lymphatic filariasis.
Under the UHC policy, all communities, regardless of their size, have a health facility, with at least 1 doctor, nurse and community health worker, and a pharmacy that provides essential medicines. Furthermore, as part of the UHC policy, public-private partnerships have emerged as crucial players, especially evident in our transport sector. These partnerships facilitate ferry schedules that are synchronized with health services, effectively reducing avoidable out-of-pocket expenses and enhancing the reach of healthcare services. With the Raajje Transport Link, we envision this network connecting every corner of our 20 atolls by 2024.
In conclusion, Health is a human right and irrespective of socio-economic conditions and financial capacity of individuals and families, the government is committed to facilitating access to health services in a timely and equitable manner for all its people. For UHC to be successfully implemented, it is vital that a “health-in-all policies” approach is established to encourage participation from all stakeholders. We stand ready to work with all members states to achieve our common UHC goals and targets.
Every nation charts its unique path, yet our combined endeavours in fortifying systems assure quality and accessible healthcare. Thus, I contend - all roads indeed lead to UHC.
I thank you.