African health ministers’ forum opens to tackle burden of diseases
The 72nd session of World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa with African health ministers and government representatives began in Lome, Togo, yesterday.
The session will discuss and agree on measures to lower the burden of diseases, seek ways to curb drivers of ill health and endorse strategies to promote access to health services and people’s well being.
According to a statement by the WHO African Region (WHO AFRO), President of the Republic of Togo, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, opened the yearly public health gathering.
The August 22 to 26 meeting is the first to be held in-person since onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ministers of health and delegates at the regional committee will discuss and endorse key strategies and launch campaigns on disease prevention. They will also endorse measures to strengthen emergency response and promote the use of technological solutions to tackle health challenges, building on lessons learnt from the pandemic response.
Since its onset, the pandemic has had profound impact on health service provision across the African region, devastated economies, lives and livelihoods.
However, the aftershocks of COVID-19 are also inspiring new efforts to rethink and rebuild health systems to not only better withstand the impact of health emergencies, but also to markedly step up quality and accessibility of health services.
African Union Commissioner for Humanitarian and Social Development Affairs, Minata Samate Cessouma, said: “Investing in the health system in Africa is essential to achieve our development targets. This investment must be substantial and strategic for health and global economic security.”
In addition to COVID-19, the African region is also battling other health challenges triggered by outbreaks of communicable diseases, humanitarian crises, climatic shocks and rising burden of chronic diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. Every year, the region faces more than 100 health emergencies, more than any other region in the world.
WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “We are calling on all member states to make an urgent paradigm shift towards promoting health and well-being and preventing disease by addressing its root causes and creating conditions for health to thrive.”