Publication Date:

28 Nov 2019


Pfeiffer J, Chapman RR. (2019). NGOs, austerity, and universal health coverage in Mozambique. Global Health. 15(0). doi: 10.1186/s12992-019-0520-8



In many African countries, hundreds of health-related NGOs are fed by a chaotic tangle of donor funding streams. The case of Mozambique illustrates how this NGO model impedes Universal Health Coverage. In the 1990s, NGOs multiplied across post-war Mozambique: the country’s structural adjustment program constrained public and foreign aid expenditures on the public health system, while donors favored private contractors and NGOs. In the 2000s, funding for HIV/AIDS and other vertical aid from many donors increased dramatically. In 2004, the United States introduced PEPFAR in Mozambique at nearly 500 million USD per year, roughly equivalent to the entire budget of the Ministry of Health. To be sure, PEPFAR funding has helped thousands access antiretroviral treatment, but over 90% of resources flow “off-budget” to NGO “implementing partners,” with little left for the public health system. After a decade of this major donor funding to NGOs, public sector health system coverage had barely changed. In 2014, the workforce/ population ratio was still among the five worst in the world at 71/10000; the health facility/per capita ratio worsened since 2009 to only 1 per 16,795. Achieving UHC will require rejection of austerity constraints on public sector health systems, and rechanneling of aid to public systems building rather than to NGOs.

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