African nations urged to put in place strong health systems

WHO Director General Tedros

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus in a virtual address reiterated on the need for African countries to invest in strengthening their health systems.

Photo credit: AFP

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Kigali, Rwanda

The second International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA 2022) kicked off on Wednesday in Kigali, Rwanda with African Heads of State, ministers of health and leading researchers and scientists scheduled to give remarks during three days of official sessions.

Under the theme “ Preparedness for future pandemics and post - pandemic recovery: Africa at a crossroads” the CPHIA 2022 which is the first of its kind to be held in person reemphasized the urgency of the continent to build more resilient public health systems discussed in inaugural CPHIA virtual conference last year where the new public health order was announced. 

While officially opening the event, Rwanda Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Édouard Ngirente said for Africa to achieve universal health care, African countries must ensure strong health systems so as to achieve quality and affordable health care right from the primary level.

“And that’s why the Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Health is happy to collaborate with Africa CDC towards implementation of the new public health order in varied aspects including strengthening institutions for public health, building our public health workforce, expanding local manufacturing, increasing domestic investment in health and promoting strategic partnerships.” 

While addressing the event virtually, Director- General at the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said that the WHO has made ten key proposals for architecture for health emergency preparedness and response in the continent, including stronger governance and financing systems and tools.

“Several parts of that architecture are already being constructed such as the international accord on pandemic preparedness and the pandemic fund among others,” he added.

Dr Tedros also reiterated on the need for African countries to invest in strengthening their health systems, even as the continent recovers from the pandemic. Much emphasis should be on primary health care even as countries journey towards universal health coverage.”

And while presenting a vision of a New Public Health Order which aims to ensure that effective health systems exist before a crisis and remain resilient during and post – crisis, Ag. Director, Africa CDC, Dr Ahmed Ouma, said It’s time that countries should collectively invest in stronger health system governance, including multisectoral collaboration within countries.

“CPHIA 2022 will shine a spotlight on this new approach to public health shaped by local leadership and regional solutions.” 

At the same time Dr Ouma announced the establishment of the Africa CDC – DRASA Award for Frontline Health Workers, as well as the Africa CDC youth advisory team so that they can be fully involved in the prevention and control of diseases in Africa..  

While reiterating the need for dignified partnerships at the global level, Prof Senait Fisseha, CPHIA 2022 Co - Chair and Vice President at The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, said a time had come for Africa to demand for its place at the international health arena. “If you cannot be offered a sit at the table then bring your own chair,” she added.

Tremendous success

Hosted by the African Union and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, CPHIA 2022 has been solicited a lot of interest from across Africa and around the world. 

“It is clear this conference is needed now more than ever. Last year’s virtual conference, CPHIA 2021, was a tremendous success and with the second edition, we hope to continue using this conference as a platform to elevate and advance African voices and solutions for years to come,” added Prof Senait. 

According to Minister of Health, Rwanda, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the conference is a great opportunity to come together as leaders in the public health sector and discuss building more resilient systems that will allow our countries to better respond to emerging health threats while continuing to address long - standing infectious and non-communicable diseases. 

“The conference brings essential conversations about Africa to Africa - conversations on topics like pandemic preparedness, increasing local vaccine production, tackling infectious and non - communicable diseases and African leadership in health,”, said CPHIA 2022 Co – chair, Prof Agnes Binagwaho. 

CPHIA 2022 will feature nine plenary sessions, 14 parallel sessions, 9 abstract - driven sessions, a high - level ministerial session, more than 50 official in person side events, and an additional 10 side events held virtually. 

The conference is coming at a critical time when many African countries continue to feel the impacts of the COVID - 19 pandemic, as well as emergence and re - emergence of infectious disease outbreaks such as Ebola and the growing burden of Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) further pose a grave threat to the health and lives of millions in Africa.