More than 60 religious leaders delegating from the Tanzania Episcopal Council (TEC), the ecumenical Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) and the Muslim Council of Tanzania (BAKWATA) in the Northern Zone, gathered in Arusha for a two days meeting under the auspices of the Interfaith Standing Committee on Economic Justice and Integrity of Creation (ISCEJIC).
The meeting was meant to find ways where the poor majority in the country can be assisted to acquire medical insurance cover without having to bear the burden of related expenses.
The head of the North-Eastern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), Bishop Dr Steven Munga, the chairperson of the committee, said as religious leaders, they commissioned research on how local communities access health services and discovered that only about 32 percent of Tanzanians are covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme.
“We realized that only eight percent have National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) cards; 23 percent rely on community insurance while one percent are enrolled with private insurances, leaving a whopping 68 percent of Tanzanians without health insurance cover,” said Bishop Munga.
Sheikh Mlewa Shaaban, representing Islamic leaders from Kilimanjaro Region, explained further that out of the 68 percent discovered by the research not falling under any insurance cover, there was 28 percent representing families that cannot afford to enroll into the schemes. “This figure translates into more than three million individuals who can hardly pay for health insurance,” he pointed out.
The committee coordinator, Edmund Matotai said religious leaders are concerned by the fact that millions of people in the country were risking lives surviving without being covered by any health insurance scheme, leaving them helplessly exposed to a number of maladies without help.
“Through the ISCEJIC platform, Christendom and Islamic leaders have been conducting various researches and studies on a number of cross-cutting issues such as activities in extraction industries, tax and revenue collection and health,” he elaborated, noting that their discoveries have propelled them to start taking actions.
“They have been working since 2008 operating behind the joint theme of ‘Making it Possible,’ which should guide the committee all the way to next year’s general elections,” said Matotai, underlining that until then a number of raised issues should have found solutions.
For her part, Gloria Mafole, a policy expert for the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) said Tanzania has been setting aside 10 percent of the national budget for health care, though the Abuja Declaration affirms that countries agreed to allocate 15 percent of their fiscal year budgets to health.
“It is now a serious problem because due to increasing costs of health services, most people in the country are ‘treating’ themselves with across the counter drugs, essentially pain-killers whenever they feel unwell, thus causing diseases to become malignant and lead to higher frequency of fatalities,” the policy advisor lamented.