Africa adopts new strategy to transform health security

Matshidiso Moet, WHO, world health organization

Dr Matshidiso Moet, Regional Director of the World Health Organization.

Photo credit: AFP

What you need to know:

  • The global health regulator estimates that up to US$ 4 billion is needed annually from international and domestic sources to fully fund core health security capacities in the region and better prepare for the next pandemic.
  • This works out to around US$ 3 per person a year.

Africa health ministers say they have officially adopted a new regional eight-year strategy as they aim to transform health security  and emergency response in the continent.

This comes after the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on what they describe as fragile health systems.

The Regional Strategy for Health Security and Emergencies 2022–2030, endorsed during the Seventy-second session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa in Lomé, Togo, aims to reduce the health and socioeconomic impacts of public health emergencies.

According to Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa Covid-19 is a wake-up call for the African region to prioritize building resilient health systems capable of providing quality healthcare while coping with public health emergencies. 

“There is a growing recognition of the mounting threat public health emergencies pose to global economies and societies, underlining the need for a One-Health approach and investing in prevention and preparedness. By investing now, we can prevent an economic and social meltdown in the future.”

The global health regulator estimates that up to US$ 4 billion is needed annually from international and domestic sources to fully fund core health security capacities in the region and better prepare for the next pandemic. This works out to around US$ 3 per person a year.

According to African ministers , the  new strategy includes strengthening mechanisms for partnerships and multisectoral collaboration, ensuring sustained and predictable investment and repurposing resources from polio eradication and Covid-19 to support strategic investments in systems and tools for public health emergencies.

“By adopting the strategy, Member States agreed to reach 12 targets by 2030 which will strengthen their capacity to prevent, prepare for, detect and respond to health emergencies, including 80 percent  of Member States having predictable and sustainable health security financing, 90 percent  mobilizing an effective response to public health emergencies within 24 hours of detection and all countries having 80 percent of health districts with functional service delivery and quality improvement programmes,” WHO explained during an official press briefing  on the sidelines of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa which  was joined by Professor Moustafa Mijiyawa who is Togo’s minister of health, public hygiene and universal access to care and Uganda’s minister of health  Dr Jane Ruth Aceng as  well as the  WHO Regional Office for Africa  team  which included  Dr Fiona Braka who is the emergency operations team lead , Dr Thierno Balde, the regional Covid-19 incident manager; and Dr Phionah Atuhebwe who is the vaccines Introduction medical officer.

“This strategy is the fruit of extensive consultations with African health ministries and a range of other institutions, technical actors and partners across the continent,” Dr Moeti highlighted while pointing out that  their ongoing support and collaboration can help ensure that Africa is at the forefront of protecting the world against future pandemics.

Globally, the African region reports the heaviest burden of public health emergencies, with more than 100 such events occurring annually. 

Prior to the emergence of Covid-19, the top causes of epidemics in the region were cholera, measles, yellow fever, meningococcal meningitis, influenza and viral haemorrhagic fevers, most of which are preventable by strengthening routine immunization. 
 
However, coronavirus underscored the need to improve surveillance, diagnostics, treatment and a range of health services. Its knock-on effects overwhelmed health systems, interrupted essential health services and fuelled socio-economic disruption, threatening to undermine decades of hard-earned health and economic gains.

WHO further  highlighted that member states agreed to commit political will and provide technical leadership, mobilize domestic and external resources, provide adequate human and logistic resources to implement the strategy, as well as strengthen a One Health coordination mechanism and build capacity at the national and decentralized levels. 

The global health body has recently launched a flagship initiative to assist countries in operationalizing the newly-adopted strategy and it is currently being rolled out in five early implementation countries across the region in Botswana, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Togo. 

“There are plans to expand this number significantly before the end of the year and for the programmes to be scaled up regionally over the next five years,” WHO assured.
 
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