On 19 November 2015, Lao PDR became the 20th country to join the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Partnership at a launch ceremony in Vientiane. This high-level event was attended by the Minister of Public Health, HE Professor Dr. Eksavang Vongvichit, as well as the WHO Representative (WR) to Lao, Dr Juliet Fleischl. In addition, Ms Natacha Gomes, the Multilateral Desk representative at Luxembourg’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was present as Lao’s UHC Partnership donor. Lao is the 6th country to be supported by Luxembourg funding joining Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Mali, Niger and Senegal.
The high level of interest in this work could be seen in the number of participants both from the Ministry of Health and from 22 development partners as well as other stakeholders. Speeches were given by the Minister of Public Health, who thanked the development partners for their continued support, WR Lao, the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a representative from WHO headquarters.
The Minister of Public Health, expressed his appreciation for the valuable support and assistance to the Ministry of Public Health from Luxembourg and the European Union through WHO, stating that this Partnership will help “identify the policy gap and develop the platform and the mechanism toward …Universal Health Coverage”.
Ms Natacha Gomes underlined the importance of the UHC Partnership expanding beyond the African region: “Back in 2012, [the partnership] started as a regional programme covering our five African partner countries. Through the very global nature of the partnership – with the EU component covering several regions – it quickly became clear to us that we also had to expand. In this reflection, we had no doubt that Lao belonged in this partnership, in fact it was impossible to imagine the next phase without the inclusion of Lao, a country where health sector reform is at its prime and where Luxembourg has been highly engaged. Lao has set the highly commendable objective of achieving UHC by 2025. This partnership will be one milestone on its way there.”
WR Lao’s speech emphasized: “This launch, while promoting visibility of the commencement of the Partnership […] in Lao PDR, also provides the opportunity to advocate for UHC. UHC has a direct impact on a population’s health and is thus a critical component of sustainable development and poverty reduction. The goal of UHC is to ensure that all people obtain access to the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them.”
Lao’s National Health Sector Reform Strategy has committed the country to achieving UHC by 2025. With this is mind, Lao’s draft Road Map for the UHC Partnership includes a strong focus on human resources for health and health financing to support and bolster ongoing UHC efforts. The UHC Partnership supports the WHO Lao Country Office with one Senior Policy Advisor and around US$ 125,000 for activities annually.
“We are truly excited to have another country from the region on board, and look forward to supporting the various activities that will hopefully bring Lao several steps closer to universal health coverage,” said the WHO headquarters representative Dr. Dheepa Rajan.