Health workers demand budgeting for health justice; WAHSUN elects new leadership

Health sector trade unions in Africa are urging leaders to allocate 15% of their countries’ annual budget to healthcare to comply with the Abuja Declaration.

African countries marked the 61st anniversary of the formation of the African Union, AU (as the Organisation of African Unity, OAU) on 25 May 2024. The day has been called African Liberation Day, as it marked the era of formal decolonisation on the continent. On this year’s Africa Day, the African Health Sector Unions Council (AHSUC) stressed that “African liberation is meaningless” if governments “cannot build resilient health systems that provide universal access to quality healthcare” and ensure that every African enjoys the right to the best attainable state of physical and mental health, as stipulated in both the World Health Organization’s constitution, and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

AHSUCH put this position forward in a letter to H.E. Moussa Faki, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, signed by the AHSUC Chairperson, Dr Davji Atella. Health sector trade unions in Africa are urging leaders to allocate 15% of their countries’ annual budget to healthcare.

AHSUC and PSI Africa and Arab Countries kicked off a 2-year campaign on April 26th to advocate for better public funding and delivery of health services by 2025, in accordance with the Abuja Declaration. The campaign launch took place in Lusaka, Zambia.

Over a hundred health workers marched to the headquarters of the African Union ECOSOC Secretariat where a petition was presented to the Chairperson of the African Union, H.E. Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, through Mr William Carew, Head of the ECOSOC Secretariat. In the joint AHSUC/PSI petition, African health workers put forward five demands, thus:

  • Ensure that the target of at least 15 percent annual budgetary allocation to health is achieved by 2026, a quarter of a century after the Abuja Declaration;

  • Uphold a human rights based approach (HRBA) to health, rooted in universal public health systems, reverse privatisation and all forms of commodification of health care;

  • Take far-reaching steps to stop illicit financial flows, and promote fiscal justice, towards expanding fiscal policy space and enhancing resource mobilisation;

  • Improve employment and working conditions in the health and care sector, enthrone core labour standards, including respect for social dialogue;

  • Deepen meaningful involvement of peoples and communities in the healthcare policy process.


The West African Health Sector Unions’ Network (WAHSUN) echoed these demands at its 24th Plenary Session and 4th Biennial Conference which took place in Abuja, Nigeria on 16-17 May. During the meeting, a delegation of the Network visited the Secretariat of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), where it put forward these demands of African health workers to the Head of the ECOWAS Secretariat, H.E. Omar Touray, urging the sub-regional body to put the need for enhanced public health spending, in the spirit of the Abuja Declaration as a top priority of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.

During the Conference, Baba Aye, the PSI Health and Social Services Officer, presented the keynote address, emphasising that WAHSUN has always been dedicated to the struggle for improving access to quality health in West Africa since the inception of the Network two decades ago. He added that the lack of healthcare access for 100 million people in West Africa and 672 million across the continent today, is unacceptable, urging WAHSUN and its member unions to take up the AHSUC/PSI 15% budget for health justice campaign with all the seriousness it deserves.

At the end of the Conference, the delegates elected a new leadership for WAHSUN, appointing Dr Kabiru Ado Sani Minjibir, President of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) and Dr David Tenkorang, General Secretary of the Ghanaian Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) as the WAHSUN Chairperson, and Secretary, respectively. Dr Minjibir, who is also a Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was elected into the PSI Executive Board at the 31st World Congress in October 2023.

The new WAHSUN leadership is committed to coordinating concerted action to take the campaign forward at the national level in West Africa. Over the next two years, AHSUC and the PSI Africa and Arab countries region will equally support advocacy of health sector unions to hold governments accountable for public funding and delivery of universal access to quality health care. Through this campaign, PSI affiliates in the region will collaborate with communities and allies to advocate for the full realisation of the right to health, with everyone working together in the fight for quality healthcare for all.