GENEVA, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- At least half of the world's population lack essential health services, and large numbers of households are pushed into poverty every year by high health expenses, according to a new report from the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.
Each year some 800 million people spend at least 10 percent of their household budgets on health expenses, of whom almost 100 million are thus pushed into extreme poverty and surviving on just 1.9 U.S. dollars or less a day, according to a report published in Lancet Global Health.
Though the 21st century has seen an increase in the number of people able to obtain some key health services and fewer people are now being tipped into extreme poverty than at the turn of the century, the progress, however, is very uneven.
Wide gaps in the availability of health services are particularly evident in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, where lack of financial protection means increasing financial distress for families as they pay for these services out of their own pockets.
This is even a challenge in more affluent regions such as Eastern Asia, Latin America and Europe, where a growing number of people are spending at least 10 percent of their household budgets on out-of-pocket health expenses, the report highlights.
"It is completely unacceptable that half the world still lacks coverage for the most essential health services," said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"A solution exists: universal health coverage allows everyone to obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship," he said.
For his part, World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim called for urgently scaling up global efforts on universal health coverage, as "investments in health, and more generally investments in people, are critical to build human capital and enable sustainable and inclusive economic growth."