Poor health is not just an individual human drama. It plays an important part in poverty and underdevelopment.
People who are ill often have to pay for expensive health care. They have – at least temporarily –less revenue because there is no social security to help them through.
Four out of eight Millennium Development Goals are directly or indirectly related to health care. More than ever, development cooperation is geared towards the fight against poverty in the world. Projects and programmes focus more and more on the poorest populations and primary health care is an essential part of that.
Just like the World Health Organisation Belgian development cooperation puts primary health care for the poorest populations high on the agenda.
Another important aspect of Belgian healthcare interventions is the renewed attention for the financing of healthcare services, and more specifically the development of insurance systems (health insurance associations). Expensive health care makes for a big hole in the budget op poor people. Also, often the poor do not have enough money to contribute towards health insurance, even if the system exists in their country.
In several countries BTC pays attention specifically to health insurance. There are such health insurance projects in Benin and Senegal; in Vietnam, Peru, Niger, Rwanda, Congo and Burundi the financing of health care also is an important aspect of interventions.
In these countries BTC supports the ministry of public health in developing health insurance associations from the bottom up, starting with local organisations at the village level. The challenge is to bring these local initiatives together in a broad social movement with sufficient financial power to provide access to quality health care for the poorest populations. The professionalization of the local movements is also a specific objective.
BTC is an active member of Masmut (Micro Health Insurance – Insurance Associations), the Belgian platform that wants to create a broad partnership with other healthcare organisations, such as NGOs and our own Belgian healthcare insurance system. For instance, RIZIV/INAMI, the Belgian National Institute for Health and Invalidity Insurance, organises special training sessions that are identified and financed by BTC for people from developing countries.
Historically, Belgium has a lot of expertise in establishing healthcare systems in the world. The Institute for Tropical Medicine, with which BTC intensely collaborates, has international fame. In the first place, Belgian interventions support hospitals and healthcare centres who are close to the population. They have to ensure that the broader public gets access to quality health care close to their home, but also to preventive services like mother and child care.
A last important shift in healthcare projects is the special attention being paid to capacity development. In this respect, the training of local healthcare staff is central. It is a way for BTC to guarantee sustainability and secure the impact of the projects for the long term.