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Egypt, Japan's JICA step up cooperation efforts for universal health coverage

Ahmed Kotb , Tuesday 5 Feb 2019
Chief Representative of JICA Egypt Yoshifumi Omura

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) organised on Monday the third Universal Health Coverage (UHC) seminar in Cairo in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population and the Health Insurance Organisation.

The seminar is aimed towards knowledge sharing between Egypt and Japan in the health insurance field, with a focus on the financial aspect of the system, as Egypt is looking to implement a UHC system that extends healthcare coverage to every citizen.

“The third UHC seminar to be organised in Egypt comes at a very important time as the government is very keen on having a UHC system,” said Yoshifumi Omura, JICA’s chief representative in Egypt.

Omura added that Japan and Egypt have been sharing knowledge on many fronts, and that JICA has had serious discussions with the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population on the next steps to take, as Egypt is now in the implementation stage of the UHC system after the new health insurance law was approved by parliament in December 2017.

Omura told Ahram Online that the seminar is important to share the latest updates on the plans to implement the UHC system in Egypt. Omura added that JICA will invite Egyptian officials to Japan to exchange knowledge, learn about the current situation in Japan and its experience in implementing UHC, as well as discussing how Egypt can best implement the system.

“The main challenge of course is the financing of the UHC system, and even in Japan there are limits to the budget, so we are always thinking about how the health insurance system can be effective,” he said, adding that "we are continuously thinking about how the system can be implemented so that everyone can benefit and no one is left behind."

“We have been meeting with [Egypt's] ministers of health, finance and other members of the cabinet to discuss supporting UHC activities and implementation in Egypt,” Omura said. JICA has a long history of cooperation with Egypt in the promotion of healthcare services and supporting the government’s efforts to offer quality healthcare, Omura said.

UHC is a system by which all people can receive quality and essential health services they need, including public health services designed to promote better health, prevent illness, and to provide treatment and rehabilitation, while at the same time it is ensured that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.

The third UHC seminar also discussed revenue raising, pooling, purchasing and the administration of Japan’s universal health insurance systems, as well as ways to minimise general budget expenditure on health in Egypt, cost sharing in the new system and merging fund pools together into one universal pool which is organised by the Ministry of Health.

Despite criticism of the new health insurance law for imposing more monthly insurance fees on citizens, government officials say those who cannot afford to pay will be subsidised and the monthly fees will be based on each individual’s income.

Improving health insurance systems worldwide, including Egypt, is part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number three, which aims at ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages by the year 2030.

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