Analytical summary - Universal coverage
In the Gambia, the mission of the health sector as stated in the National Health Policy 2012–2020 is to "promote and protect the health of the population through the equitable provision of quality health care". The private sector, nongovernment organizations and faith-based organizations also play a vital role in the delivery of health services with a view to complementing the Government of the Gambia's effort in this direction. These joint efforts result in increased access to health services in nearly every community in the country.
The health and health-related laws and acts are designed to regulate or influence outcomes in service delivery. Enforcement of these regulations often poses a challenge due to lack of delineation of functions between the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the various professional councils.
Currently, the Upper River Region and the Lower River Region do not have hospitals and thus have to refer patients over quite long distances. However, the major health centre in the Upper River Region could serve as a hospital if the human and material resources were available, as the infrastructure is adequate to serve that purpose.
The Government is committed to universal coverage as evidenced by the opening of new outreach stations within the health regions in order to expand target population coverage, particularly of pregnant women and children. Expansions of health facilities and structures financed mainly under the World Bank's Participatory Health Population and Nutrition Project have enabled the Government to widen the scope of services to new areas. Financing of these ventures is mainly through support from international and local partners as well as through private sector engagement.
Although there is no government health insurance scheme, medical care is largely affordable. Emergency services are usually managed, even if the patient is unable to pay at presentation. Diseases of public health importance are financed by the Government in collaboration with international partners. However, despite the good intentions for the health of the population, rising cost of health commodities is a challenge for the Government in financing health care.
Collaborative efforts such as the Health for Peace Initiative, involving West African countries, increase access to comprehensive eye care at all levels of the health system. Other areas of collaboration in this Initiative are in:
- disease surveillance
- epidemic management and complex emergencies
- the Roll Back Malaria Partnership
- HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections.