African govts urged to invest more in health systems

African governments urged to invest more in health systems


Stakeholders from across the continent have challenged African governments to invest more in their health systems, so as to curb the health crisis currently facing the continent.

This was the main agenda during the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC 2023) which officially kicked off Wednesday in Kigali, Rwanda, Under the theme “Resilient Health Systems for Africa: Re-envisioning the Future Now.”

Speaking during the launch, Dr Ahmed Ogwell , Acting Director, Africa CDC, noted that the current dispensation in delivering health to the continent is not sustainable, adding that the continent’s health systems cannot be effective if there is no acknowledgement and preparation for risks and pressures outside the sector.

“That is why we are currently responding to the growing cholera outbreak in multiple countries because other sectors are facing challenges that are now translating into health problems,” he said, adding that Africa is living through the consequences of a failure to adequately invest and prioritize public health needs.

According to Dr Ahmed, any interruption in a supply chain for both health and non-health products results in negative health consequences.

He said that as a continent, Africa must work across sectors to reduce such hits on the health system: “The experience we've had through the COVID-19 pandemic and recent outbreaks such as Mpox, Ebola, cholera etc., is a direct consequence of inadequate investment in public health.”

But even with this, he said that AHAIC 2023 gives Africa another opportunity to reflect on how far it has come as a continent to set its own health agenda.

“Here, we bring our experts together with our many partners, and find innovative solutions to the problems we face.”

Thus, he said, there is need to incorporate a One Health Approach in how we strategize for and manage our disease prevention and control efforts, adding that Africa CDC is supporting Ministries of Health and National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs) to build this capacity, while simultaneously improving coordination for the prevention and control of priority zoonotic diseases across other integral parts of the health sector.

“We are also supporting our countries to establish and operationalise Public Health Emergency Operations Centres (PHEOCs), which should be the central coordinating hubs for disease surveillance and response coordination across Africa.”

Global warming

On the issue of global warming and climate change, he said that Africa continues to suffer the most as climatic hazards continue to contribute to many of the health emergencies and diseases the continent faces.

“These disasters such as flooding, drought or other extreme weather patterns have devastating effects and have led to poorer health outcomes due to disruptions in health services.”

‘While the burden of Covid-19 has lessened, recent outbreaks of other diseases such as Ebola, Marburg, and cholera demonstrate that our health security is always at risk climate disasters including droughts, famines and floods are causing destruction and loss of life across the continent."

"And while Africa contributes the least to emissions and global warming, it is the most vulnerable to its impacts, reminding us that there is no discount to consequences of decisions made in your absence,” Dr Githinji said while adding that  all the  frictions he mentioned  have resulted in an unprecedented rise in cost of living making  fragile health systems weaker and families desperate.

“In the face of these complex and compounding crises, previous hard fought progress is at risk – the systems we have worked hard to build threaten to fall apart.  

The burden of communicable diseases in Africa remains high.

Our continent holds nearly 40 percent of the global neglected tropical disease burden, 95 percent of all malaria cases, and 36 percent of TB deaths worldwide.”

 The CEO further added that at  the same time, noncommunicable diseases, in recent years have accounted for a growing share of mortality in the region of over 50 percent for adults in some countries.

“By 2030, only seven years from now, deaths from NCDs are expected to exceed communicable, maternal, perinatal, and nutritional deaths combined. Diabetes alone is expected to rise by 129 percent to 55 million people across Africa by 2045. 

The climate crisis which has increased severe flooding and drought, unyielding conflicts, food insecurity all worsened by a record level of internal displacement – have placed Africa at its worst in decades.”

He urged Africa to make no mistake.

“ This crisis is multiplied for women, young people, those living in poverty, people living with disabilities and those living in peace-less societies, it’s not equal, it’s concentrated in specific populations which must be our focus.”

Dr Githinji believes that the  situation is urgent, but the fate of our continent is in our hands to decide.

“We must act together to accelerate the realization of the , Africa Health Strategy 2016-2030, Africa Union’s New Public Health Order and the WHO Triple Billions 2025 target – strategies that focus on achievement of Universal health coverage, healthy populations and health security through partnerships.

As we go to the UN High Level Meeting in September 2023 on UHC, TB and Pandemic Preparedness and Response, WE must not continue to negotiate country by country but as a continent ensuring these declarations and treaties reflect the desires of our people.”

Dr Githinji is of the view that the ongoing deliberations  will inform multiple regional and global platforms including: the Multi-Stakeholder meetings on the UN HLM on Health; the Global Forum for Adolescents hosted in October 2023 by PMNCH; and the World Health Assembly and others.

“Our conversations on the intersection and impact of climate change and health will inform our approach to the Conference of Parties (COP28) in United Arab Emirates in November 2023.

We look forward to common continental approach on Africa’s plan for adapting Health systems to the climate crisis at COP28,” he said.

 “ This is a future that no country, no organization and no individual can achieve alone. We must all come together as ‘One Africa, One Economy for Health’ and our presence at AHAIC23 demonstrates our collective commitment to the journey ahead.”