Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working in the health sector in Malawi and across Africa have called on the Government of Malawi to take urgent action to increase access to budget information and to provide more opportunity for public engagement in the budgeting process.
This is carried in a joint communiqué by MamaYe Malawi, Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) and Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) at the launch of the Africa Health Budget Network Value Our Health campaign at a session of the World/IMF Spring Meeting’s Civil Society Forum in Washington DC, USA on Friday.
The CSOs are joining calls for open and participatory health budgets with a view of curbing maternal and neonatal deaths at the same time showing value for health.
“We care about how much is spent on different health programmes because we want better levels of health and well-being for mothers and babies. Significant progress has been made in reducing child mortality rates and the Government should be commended for achieving the Millennium Development Goal IV ahead of time.
“However, the newborn mortality rate has not reduced at the same speed and 14,000 newborns are dying each year, the large majority of which are preventable,” reads the communiqué in part.
It says as one way of keeping the government accountable on the way it spends public money on health, citizens and civil society need to be able to access sufficiently detailed information about actual spending and about what the results of this investment have been.
“We ask that the Government continue to show it values the people’s health by investing more in people’s health especially for mothers and newborns. We urgently need our newborns to receive a clean and safe birth, and we need funding for sanitation within our clinics,” said Mathias Chatuluka of MamaYe Malawi.
Dalitso Kubalasa of MEJN said there is need for CSOs to be given the opportunity to influence decisions during the budget process, and to provide evidence to the Government about the most important health priorities of Malawi.
He said Malawi has performed well on its budget transparency score according to the latest Open Budget Survey.
“We welcome the progress the country has made in providing its citizens with this vital information so that we can see how our money is spent.”
Kubalasa said however, Malawi does not provide sufficient opportunity for the public to shape the health budget.
George Jobe, Executive Director of the Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) said: “The voice of the people must be heard during the budget process, so that it reflects public priorities. The Government must take steps now to address this”.