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September 01, 2010 (All day)

Country Ownership and Accountability

   Dr. Francis Omaswa


African people like any others in the world are entitled to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health as one of the fundamental rights of every human being. For this to happen, effective health systems that work for the entire population are needed in each and every country. Governments have the primary responsibility for assuring that there are effective health systems and that services are made available either as a direct provider, a regulator, or a coordinator. These are responsibilities of the state that cannot be delegated. Governments around the world are expected, indeed required to be stewards, or protectors, of the public interest and have the ultimate responsibility for assuring conditions that allow people to be as healthy as they can be. Stewardship and leadership is one of the central building blocks of an effective health system.

Country ownership in this context means that governments recognise and accept that they are accountable for the health of their populations and have the ultimate responsibility to do all in their power, on their own, and with the active participation of the people and in collaboration with external partners as needed. The foundation that makes country ownership an imperative is the thesis that sustainable change is endogenous and must come from within the country, the community and the people who benefit from the change. ‘Only that change that comes from the communities themselves is sustainable.’ Due to a variety of factors such as economic collapse, poor governance, the cold war, and devastating epidemics and famine, Africa has become a continent for global pity and deemed not to be able to take care of itself and in need of outside help for both resources and worse still for ideas and solutions as well. This is what we need to change, to make Africans regain confidence in themselves and know that it is up them to lead and cause the change that they desire. Friends and partners from outside only come to help.

To read more about country ownership in Africa, see the original article in Africa Health's September issue.