Q&A: Amref leader on why universal health coverage is crucial for Africa

Published: Thursday 21st March 2019

Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO of Amref Health Africa, talks about Africa’s unique path to UHC and what to expect at #AHAIC2019

A health clinic in Kenya. The Makueni County Government is set to study the outsourcing of operations of three primary health clinics in the county per a new agreement: Amref Health Africa will offer capacity building and health worker training working with Philips, which is responsible for providing the health system infrastructure and the medical equipment in the clinics. Makueni County will be responsible for policy, regulation and quality management, and the Dutch development bank FMO is providing legal and business expertise. (Photo courtesy of Amref Health Africa)

With those words, Dr. Githinji Gitahi conveys why he is such a passionate advocate for pro-poor universal health coverage (UHC).

Dr. Gitahi joined Amref Health Africa as Group CEO in 2015. Founded in 1957, Amref Health Africa is the largest African-led international organization on the continent, reaching more than 9 million people through about 150 health-focused projects across 35 countries.

From March 5 to 7 in Kigali, Rwanda, Amref Health Africa and the Rwandan Ministry of Health are convening for the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (Africa Health 2019 – #AHAIC2019 Africa Health 2019) – a platform to foster “new ideas and home-grown solutions” to the most pressing health challenges in Africa, with a focus on achieving UHC in Africa by 2030.

Africa Health 2019 is viewed as a key opportunity to map a pathway from commitment to action and to build momentum for UHC among policymakers, civil society, technical experts, innovators, thought leaders, academics and youth leaders. The event is a milestone in the run-up to the UN high-level meeting on UHC in September, where the global commitment to UHC will be galvanized through a political declaration agreed upon by UN member states.

Dr. Gitahi began his career as a medical doctor practicing in obstetrics and gynaecology, witnessing both the progress in health outcomes in his native Kenya and the gaps that remain. With 100 million people globally being pushed into extreme poverty each year due to high out-of-pocket payments, the goal of “health for all” is more urgent than ever, he says. Through his work at Amref Health Africa, Dr. Gitahi champions “affordable, quality healthcare for every person, everywhere.” His global leadership earned him an appointment as co-chair of the UHC2030 Steering Committee, a global World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO) initiative in support of UHC.