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Insufficient investment in health has a devastating impact on societies and the economy: Guterres

ByMicheal Johnson

Oct 7, 2020

He General secretary of the United Nations stressed this Wednesday the importance of strengthening health systems and achieving universal health coverage.

In his Policy Report on COVID-19 and Universal Health Coverage, António Guterres highlighted the speed with which the coronavirus spread around the world, causing more than a million deaths, more than 30 million infections and an acute economic crisis just nine months having first appeared in humans.

With alarm, Guterres remarked that infections are on the rise and that there are worrying signs of new waves.

He noted that this pandemic has revealed multiple fundamental weaknesses of societies and economies, among which he highlighted inadequate health systems, huge gaps in social protection, large structural inequalities within and between countries.

But, above all, the head of the UN quoted “how badly prepared the world is”To face a health emergency of this magnitude.

“Never have strong and resilient health systems been more crucial, which has greater urgency in search of universal health coverage, “he said.

UNICEF / Zhang Yuwei

A 6-month-old baby receives a vaccination at a community health center in Beijing, China.

Costs and setbacks

He warned that underinvestment in the health sector can have a devastating impact on societies and economies, as has been well observed with $ 375 billion a month it costs the world economy the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guterres also mentioned 500 million jobs lost and the decline in human development.

Given this panorama, he insisted that health is a human right and that universal health coverage is a fundamental tool to achieve health for all people.

“However, at least half of the world’s population still does not have coverage complete of essential health services and more than 800 million people spend a minimum of 10% of their family budgets to pay for health expenses ”, he stressed.

He recalled that all countries agreed to work to achieve universal health coverage as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and that a year ago they endorsed the first General Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage and the commitment to health for all people. However now those commitments are threatened by the pandemic.

© 2018 European Union

Health worker assisting a pregnant woman in a Nigerian clinic.


The policy brief includes five recommendations:

Control transmission of COVID-19 through proven public health measures and a coordinated global response.

To protect the provision of other essential health services during the pandemic. The pandemic has disrupted the provision of essential daily interventions needed to address infectious diseases and cancer, heart disease and other noncommunicable diseases. Access to mental health services and sexual and reproductive health programs cannot be compromised.

To guarantee that all people, everywhere, have access to future vaccines, tests and treatments against COVID-19. Finance the Accelerator ACT it is the fastest way to end the pandemic.

Reach universal health coverage. This requires governments to increase investment in health commons, such as surveillance, supply chain and procurement, as well as risk communications. It also requires that public health programs be inclusive and equitable. Access to health services should not depend on financial status.

Strengthen preparing for and responding to a pandemic, considering these strategies as a global public good. This requires large-scale national and global investment and requires the participation of all sectors of society.

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