Civil society Organisations (CSOs) advocating for better health services in the East African region are asking the East African Community heads of states to invest more resources in research and development in the health sector.
The CSOs argue that investing more resources in the research and development in the health sector plays big role in the social and economic transformation of the East African community.
Addressing the media at Liaco Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe before the East African Community heads of states meeting, which kicks off from February 21, CSO leaders said that EAC Head of states agreed to invest 2% of the National health budget in research and development in the health sector but no single state has implemented it.
“We call up on our leaders to renew pledges that were made in line with the Bamako Commitment, allocating 2% of national health budgets to health research and development (R&D) and create a regional health R&D fund to support regional research in the EAC block,” said Jonniah William Mollel, the Chief Executive Office for the East African Health platform.
In 2008, African health ministers, during the global ministerial forum on research for health held in Bamako-Mali, agreed that all African states should at least allocate 2% of the total national Budget for health to research and development as a way of building the capacity for African scientists to come up with solutions in the health sector.
Although the policy makers made the declaration, no single country especially in East Africa has respected the Bamako declaration which the CSOs say has a negative impact towards the development of the health sector in the region.
Dr. Sam Okware, the Director General at Uganda National Health Research Organization says research is very important in the region due to the increasing population which requires updated health information which is community based rather than the current researches that are donor driven.
“We need to do own our research because currently the regions research is donor-driven, and this cannot address community problems. Our research must be community responsive and the only way to achieve that is through increasing domestic funding towards research and development in the health sector,” he said.
He added that the Eat African community has established strong legal frame works to regulate health research in the region but the challenge is that the institutions are not being funded by EAC member states.
To ensure that Health research is developed in the region, the East African Community established the East African Health Research commission which Okware says can be an engine to drive research.
Economic values of injecting money in Health research
According the CSOs, injecting in research and development in the health sector can save people’s lives and also drive economic development.
Driving economic growth: It is estimated that 11% of economic growth in low-and middle-income countries experienced between 2000 and 2011 has been attributed to health improvements.
Consequently, strengthening the capacity of EAC countries to be able to identify, develop, adapt, produce and regulate health R&D is critical.
Saving lives and cost savings: Since the 1950’s, Global health R&D investment of $26milion towards polio vaccine has resulted in treatment cost savings worth $180billion and the world now is in the verge of eradicating polio due to the development and delivery of polio vaccines among the beneficiaries from the developments is the EAC countries.
Apart from asking for the allocation of 2% of the total budget for health sectors to Research and Development, CSOs want the EAC Heads of state to ensure that there’s an enabling environment for health research by establishing or strengthening a legal and policy framework that will nurture scientific careers, protect research subjects and ensure that research findings translate to health policy, product development, manufacturing and commercialization.