Policy Briefs

Health Policies in MENA After Covid: Accelerating Reforms, Spearheading Health Equity


PB 70




December, 2021


I. Health, Education, and Welfare

In a nutshell
  • While health has been a key global developmental target for decades, the COVID19 pandemic propelled it into the political limelight, reminding us of its essential character for the functioning of society and the economy.
  • Universal Health Coverage (UHC) had been adopted internationally as a framework and benchmark for health policies and for ensuring Access to Affordable Available Quality healthcare for all.
  • In 2018, MENA renewed its commitment to UHC through the “Health For All” Salalah declaration. However, public sectors remained weak, with uneven provisions that were unequally distributed. Access to healthcare was typically highly segmented and fragmented. Financial protection tended to be linked to formal labour market attachment, which is problematic in a region with low female labour market participation and low old age provisions. Special schemes were developed to cater for the uninsured and those ‘left behind’, but Out of Pocket Payments (OOPs) were still at between one third to two thirds of health payments, exposing citizens to poverty and catastrophic health spending.
  • Health sector and financing mix deficiencies became fault lines during the pandemic.
  • Worldwide and in MENA, COVID19 has been a “great unequalizer”, battering the income and health of poorer and vulnerable segments of society more than others. In particular, precariousness in living, working, transport conditions, and terms of employment trapped large swathes of the population of the labour force.
  • MENA’s COVID health crisis is also a social protection crisis. Health entitlements need to be reformed so that these entitlements are portable across providers and across employment statuses. If health risks and social protection are socialised, people can move in and out of employment without fear of losing jobs or lives.
  • Given the urgency of health issues, countries around the world are mobilising increased public funding for health and other public goods. MENA needs to take heed and mobilize largely untapped domestic resources, including the taxation of higher incomes.
Health Policies in MENA After Covid: Accelerating Reforms, Spearheading Health Equity


Randa Alami

Lecturer, School of Oriental & African Studies