World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged all Member States to take decisive action to provide primary health services as the foundation of universal health coverage, by reorienting health systems.
African health Ministers and government representatives on Monday opened the seventy-third session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa to discuss and agree on key measures to address the region’s health challenges, and advance and promote good health and well-being.
The annual gathering is taking place in Gaborone, Botswana, from Monday until Friday.
“I urge all Member States to take action to protect health, by strengthening your defences against health emergencies,” said Ghebreyesus.
WHO Africa’s highest decision-making body will, this week, focus on a range of strategies to bolster health systems, enhance readiness and response to health emergencies, reinforce ways to tackle nutrition and food insecurity crises, as well as address the threat of infectious and chronic diseases among other challenges.
Regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti noted that although living in a challenging global health context, recent advancements in Member States demonstrated that the future of health in the African region was hopeful.
“We acknowledge the commitments our leaders have made to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage and health security. And the joint actions by governments and partners to translate these commitments into reality,” said Moeti.
She noted that with the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic now ended, countries were striving to rebuild from its devastating impact on economies, health and livelihoods, and drawing lessons on how to better prepare for future pandemics and shocks.
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi laid out his country’s multiplicity of problems – worsening poverty, humanitarian crises, food insecurity – which, he said had a negative impact on the country’s health and well-being.
“Now more than ever there is a critical need to enhance international collaboration and global solidarity building on the experience from the Covid-19 pandemic. Addressing current and emerging challenges requires strong collaborations and partnerships to meet key health and other development objectives,” he said.
African Union (AU) Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development Ambassador Minata Samaté Cessouma highlighted that the collaboration between WHO and the AU Commission Health Department was a fundamental pillar in the implementation of health programmes and the Sustainable Development Goals, and the aspirations of the AU’s 2063 agenda.
Meanwhile, director-general of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Dr John Kaseya called for increased pandemic preparedness by countries with support from partners to ensure an effective response to safeguard health and livelihoods.
Kaseya stated that the next pandemic was coming, and the continent needed to be prepared.