Over 117 million people in the ASEAN region poverty to catastrophic spending and the shadow of covid-19 crises

Over 117 million people in the ASEAN region poverty to catastrophic spending and the shadow of covid-19 crises

WHO. Images/CNBC

DILI, 4 april 2023 (TATOLI)- Over 117 million people in the ASEAN region is poverty to catastrophic spending and in the shadow of the COVID-19 crisis, while around 40% of the region’s population is unable to access essential health services.

This number was revealed by the World Health Organization at the WHO’s 75th founding anniversary.

“Let us unite in purpose and be driven by action to achieve UHC and Health for All, ensuring all people have good health for a fulfilling life in a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world,” said in a statement published by WHO.

According to an official statement seen by TATOLI, stated that the COVID-19 crisis has shown that when health is at risk, everything is at risk. It has shown that investments in UHC and health system resilience underpin not just health, but social and economic security, as well as the achievement of an array of Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2017, around 299 million people in the Region faced catastrophic health spending, and an estimated 117 million people in the Region were pushed or further pushed below the purchasing power parity poverty line of US$ 1.90 a day – a figure that has since been exacerbated.

“Today, on World Health Day, WHO celebrates 75 years of improving public health and well-being in the South-East Asia Region and globally, fully committed to achieving Health for All through universal health coverage (UHC) – when all people can access health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship.”

For many decades now – and since even before the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata – high-level leaders and policymakers from across the Region have recognized the critical role that access for all to quality, affordable, and comprehensive primary health care (PHC) can play in achieving UHC, and therefore Health for All.

However, global enthusiasm for UHC and the PHC approach has witnessed several peaks and troughs, resulting in public health services and programs that have often become siloed, fragmented, and divorced from wider multisectoral, social, and economic processes and determinants.

History’s lesson is as clear as it is urgent: Sustained whole-of-government, whole-of-society action is needed to achieve UHC and Health for All – since 2014, one of eight Regional Flagship Priorities, and a core pillar of the Region’s vision to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. We must all contribute.

First, high-level leaders from across the Region must maintain and strengthen the political and financial commitment to achieve UHC, accelerating momentum ahead of the second UN General Assembly meeting on UHC in September this year.

Second, policymakers and program managers must continue to implement the Region’s Strategy for PHC, which launched in December 2021. Of specific focus should be strengthening public health infrastructure, workforce, and financing, while at the same time increasing equity for those at risk or who are already being left behind. Shared learning must continue to be a core priority, leveraging the full power of the Region’s new Forum for PHC-Oriented Health Systems.

Third, people and communities must increasingly assert their voice and Right to Health, including by directly engaging in local health decision-making processes. As highlighted by the 2021 WHO handbook on social participation for UHC, as well as the Region’s recently adopted resolution on enhancing social participation in support of PHC and UHC, individuals and communities can play a key role in monitoring health service performance and holding health providers and policymakers to account.

Fourth, partners, donors, and other stakeholders in the Region must go all in on UHC and Health for All, recognizing that the PHC approach is the most effective, efficient, and equitable way to build national health systems that are unified, and which achieve healthier populations, health security, and UHC. In all countries, policymakers must lead, and partners must support. Assistance must be fully aligned with national priorities, avoiding duplication and fragmentation.

Crucially, given the magnitude of the challenge, we must recognize that progress may not always grab headlines, but will nevertheless make a real difference in people’s lives. Between 2010 and 2019, the Region increased its UHC service coverage index from 47 to 61. Between 2000 and 2017, the Region reduced the number of households impoverished or further impoverished from out-of-pocket spending on health from 30% to 6%. Since 2014, the density of doctors, nurses, and midwives in the Region has improved by over 30% – a tremendous achievement that must continue to be built upon.



Journalist: José Belarmino De Sá

Editor: Nelia B.


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