National / Science & Health

Japan pledges $2.9 billion to support countries pursuing universal health coverage

Kyodo

Japan will contribute about $2.9 billion to programs combating infectious disease and treating young children in developing countries that are pursuing universal health coverage, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday at an international forum on the topic in Tokyo.

Universal health coverage — ensuring that every person can obtain the health care services they need without suffering financial hardship — is part of the sustainable development goals U.N. members aim to achieve by 2030.

Abe made the announcement alongside U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and world leaders attending the Universal Health Coverage Forum, which was organized by the Japanese government and international organizations including the World Bank and World Health Organization.

“We will give our all to building a global framework to promote UHC, together with Secretary-General Guterres and other world leaders,” Abe said.

Abe also proposed a new interim universal health coverage target — that 1 billion more people will be able to receive basic health services by 2023.

At present the WHO aims to ensure by 2030 that 80 percent of the population of developing countries have access to basic health services, and that no one falls into poverty due to out-of-pocket expenses on health care.

Guterres praised Japan’s funding commitment and called for further integration, suited to each country’s needs, between the public and private sectors, to combat the “gross inequity” that persists in health care.

“Out-of-pocket spending on health causes an estimated 100 million people to fall below the poverty line every year, and in an increasingly interconnected world, an evolving global health landscape gives rise to new threats,” Guterres said.

The U.N. General Assembly will hold a high-level meeting on universal health coverage next year, and has declared Dec. 12 Universal Health Coverage Day.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, Myanmar President Htin Kyaw and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus were among participants in the forum, each underscoring the importance of countries making a commitment to health systems that reach underserved people.

“It takes unwavering political commitment because it is a political choice, but the price is a healthier, safer and fairer world for all people,” Tedros said.

Abe said Japan can contribute to other countries its particular experience with health coverage for aging populations.

He also announced that Tokyo will host a nutrition forum in 2020 on ensuring a stable food supply.