Africa CDC has strong support from WHO; ‘Urgent paradigm shift’ needed to prioritize prevention – Tedros tells African health ministers

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the opening of the 72nd session of the Regional Committee for Africa

African nations must pivot in their fight against the disease to “address its root causes” with greater emphasis on improved diets, healthier environments and improved road safety, among other factors. WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the 72nd meeting of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa, at the opening of the week-long session of Member States in Lomé, the capital of Togo.

Tedros also pledged WHO’s continued support for the work of the Africa Centers for Disease Control (Africa CDC) – remarks clearly aimed at quelling tensions between the two agencies that had emerged earlier this summer after the Africa CDC started circulating a proposal that he would be empowered by the African Union to declare continental health emergencies – which the WHO reportedly opposed.

The fuss over who should declare public health emergencies in Africa

This week’s meeting of African health ministers and government officials is expected to focus on ways to reduce the burden of disease, build capacity and endorse strategies to fight disease and promote health. access to health and welfare services.

It also examines how the continent can combat COVID-19 and a growing number of other health challenges related to communicable disease outbreaks, conflict and humanitarian crises, climate change and chronic diseases.

“Achieving our vision of the highest attainable standard of health does not start in the clinic or hospital, but in schools, streets, supermarkets, households and cities”, Tedros told the meeting. It was his first major appearance since he officially began his second five-year term as head of the 194-nation United Nations health agency a week ago.

“Much of the work you do as ministries of health is to deal with the consequences of poor diets, polluted environments, unsafe roads and workplaces, insufficient knowledge of health and the aggressive marketing of products harmful to health,” added the WHO Director-General.

“Therefore,” he said, “we call on all Member States to make an urgent paradigm shift, towards the promotion of health and well-being and the prevention of disease by tackling their root causes and creating the conditions for health to thrive”.

Pledge of support to Africa CDC and the African Medicines Agency

Tedros also promised the WHO continued financial and technical support Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) – noting that he had in fact contributed to the birth of the agency with a proposal for its establishment in an African Union summit in July 2013 when he was Ethiopia’s foreign minister.

“So Africa CDC is my daughter, and not just me, but WHO and our regional office, all of us, will do everything to strengthen it. Strengthening continental institutions is very important for the advancement of health and other sectors on our continent,” he said.

“Similarly,” he added, “we also continue to provide technical and financial support to the African Medicines Agency (AMA), to support greater regulatory capacity on the continent,” he added. he added, of the new medicines agency which is supposed to help facilitate faster and harmonized approval of new medicines and vaccines across Africa.

Cessouma Minata Samate, AU Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, during the opening ceremony of the 72nd session of the Regional Committee for Africa

Last month, Monitoring of health policies reported that the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) selected Rwanda to host the headquarters of the African Medicines Agency.

Cessouma Minata Samate, AU Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, said the AMA also aims to support the production of medicines on the African continent.

“Through this agency, we will strengthen the regulatory capacity of African Union member states and the regional economic community,” she said.

While congratulating the government of Rwanda for being chosen to host WADA’s headquarters, she urged the country to ensure that the agency becomes operational as soon as possible. See our special AMA development coverage here:

African Medicines Agency countdown

Prioritizing investments in health and fighting disease while tackling inequalities

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic showed how important it was for African countries to invest in healthcare and disease control. .

In Africa last year, 22 million jobs were lost and 30 million more people joined the ranks of extreme poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.90 a day.

Things to continue like this next year, she said, “tThese statistics make a very clear case for investing in health.

Inequality is a key factor hindering health progress in Africa, according to Moeti, whether it is the lack of tools needed to respond to pandemics or the high out-of-pocket payments that prevent people from seeking treatment when they need it.

Moeti expressed WHO’s continued concern over the continent’s relatively lower immunization rate against COVID-19 despite the recent availability of large quantities of doses. She said this unnecessarily puts health and jobs at risk while opening the door to the emergence of potentially dangerous new variants of the virus.

“New momentum to accelerate the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine is imperative, especially to protect our most vulnerable,” she said.

Fight the disease
Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé during the opening ceremony of the 72nd session of the Regional Committee for Africa

Togo eradicates four NTDs while fighting the disease

One of the highlights of the opening ceremony was the recognition of Togo’s efforts in disease control, including the eradication of four neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

“Togo’s freedom from dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease), human African trypanosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis and trachoma is an amazing achievement that will free many people from the threat of these devastating diseases,” said Tedros. .

“I also congratulate you”, he added, “for the progress you have made in improving the management and efficiency of hospitals, and for improving access to services for the population”.

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé said health was central to his government’s development and a priority for social cohesion.

He described Togo’s relationship with the WHO as one that has transcended institutional cooperation and is now a true partnership that supports Togo’s health systems, helping to coordinate emergency responses and increase equity in vaccine material.

“It’s a partnership that guides us – learning from current crises towards lasting, fair and robust solutions,” he said.

Image credits: WHO.

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