New bill on health passed in Tanzania

For seven years, NCA, together with our church network in Tanzania, has fought for a new health law. The bill has been postponed twice in parliament, but after extensive lobbying, the bill passed last week.

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Doctor Jane Manyahi, at Cardinal Rugambwa Hospital in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo: Norwegian Church Aid/Anette Torjusen.

“We have no words; we can hardly believe it”

“This is an important milestone for the whole of Africa and is a law that will set a great precedent across the continent”, says our Secretary General. Dagfinn Høybråten.

15 million people in Tanzania cannot afford to pay for health care or hospitals. The new law will ensure that everyone gets access to treatment and medicines.

“With this law, the authorities have signed an important contract with their countrymen. Not only will the law save countless lives, but it will also contribute to the development of health care in the country”, says Høybråten.

The law means that the citizens will now be obliged to pay health insurance. The insurance money is put into a fund. The poorest are exempt from paying insurance, but now get the help they need through the fund. In addition to insurance, the authorities must tax a number of goods and services, such as tobacco, alcohol, luxury goods and banking services. Everyone in the country will now receive a health card showing that they are entitled to healthcare. Today, patients outside the country's hospitals are turned away, and in the worst case, die, because they cannot afford to pay.

 “Millions of people will now have a brighter tomorrow. This means a lot, especially for women and children, who are victims of a lack of health services today”, says Høybråten.

 The passing of this the law would not have been possible without our church partners.

“They have not given up the fight and have used their entire network to gain traction. All the way to the top”, says Høybråten. 

Head of the interdenominational network in Tanzania, Edmund Matotay, has led this work for the past five years.

“We have no words, we can hardly believe it”, he says with relief.

Matotay says that there have been many discussions about how this is to be financed, and how to map the very poorest who are to be exempted from paying insurance.

“We have now found a good solution that everyone is happy with. This law would not have been possible without NCA, which has created a platform for this work and been an active promoter”, he says.

The law can enter into force from July next year at the earliest.

Doctor Jane Manyahi, at Cardinal Rugambwa Hospital in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, has had to turn away patients because they could not afford healthcare. She says that people have died, and many women have given birth outside the gates of the hospital.

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“It has been painful and incredibly sad to turn people away because they could not afford treatment. Even yesterday, a man with kidney disease died because he had not received help in time. That is why this law will be incredibly important”, she says.