With the rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in West Africa, a region made up of low- income and low and middle-income countries, it is evident that the pattern of disease occurrence has shifted. Projections although based on minimal data show that at this pace, NCDs will surpass infectious diseases and become the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in West Africa. The significance of this shift against current health expenditure in these countries needs to be analyzed. Government’s commitment to the World Health Organization (WHO) led NCDs Global action plan 2013–2020 hinges on not just having the political will but expressing this will in terms of funding. Currently, it is understood that countries still have various opportunities with the right reforms and measures in place to tackle this rising menace.
A review of health spending (domestic and external) and the proportion of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYS) attributable to Non-Communicable Diseases was carried out using data from WHO Global Expenditure Database and WHO Disease Burden and Mortality Estimate Database respectively.
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Among the West African countries, Cabo Verde had the highest domestic government expenditure on NCDs at $20 per capita on NCDs, and also had 87 DALYS attributed to NCDs, which was the lowest recorded value in West Africa. On the other hand, Nigeria with the highest proportion of DALYS attributable to NCDS, i.e. 36001 spent only $1 per capita as domestic government expenditure on NCDs. However, other countries such as Benin, Togo and Ghana who also spent $1 per capita had 212, 1364, 2312 DALYs respectively. Also, Gambia and Liberia with $2 per capita government expenditure on NCDs recorded 326 and 682 DALYs due to NCDs respectively. In terms of external funding, Nigeria recorded the highest expenditure at US$15 million with Liberia being the closest at US$8 million. Other countries had minimal to zero external expenditure on NCDs.
The domestic and external expenditure on NCDs in West African countries is disproportionate to the burden of NCDs and their risk factors in the region, and at this rate, these countries will not meet the WHO set targets. In order to prevent this and accelerate countries towards these goals, development partners, private institutions and donors need to intensify advocacy efforts and alongside funding to support government efforts. Also, governments need to hasten policy response, address the human resource crisis, re-orient service delivery towards chronic disease care, improve chronic care commodities’ supply and ultimately increase funding to tackle the fast approaching NCD epidemic.