Health Ministers in Africa scale up covid-19, other diseases response

Ministers of Health and representatives from the continent are due to begin a four-day virtually meeting today for the 71st Session of the World Health Organization, WHO, Regional Committee for Africa.

A statement by the global agency noted that the committee is the organization’s decision-making body, with the gathering being the premier forum on public health. It also hosts 47 health ministers yearly to discuss and endorse regional policies, activities and financial plans to improve people’s health and well-being across Africa.

Over 400 delegates, including WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus; Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti; representatives of United Nations agencies, funds and programs; civil society; bilateral and multilateral organizations and other development partners are also participating.

Among issues to be discussed are scaling up of covid-19 response, accelerating elimination of cervical cancer, improving access to assistive health technologies and boosting uptake of digital health.

Others are reinforcement of an integrated response to Tuberculosis, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus, HIV, sexually transmitted infections and hepatitis, as well as defeating meningitis by 2030 and enthroning sustainable financing of the global health agency.

There will also be a special session on polio outbreak response and transition.

According to WHO, while there is significant progress in the use of information and communication technologies, ICTs, in health and health-related fields, majority of the countries in the region deploy digital health solutions in pilot mode.

Owing to identifiable lapses like limited digital health leadership capacity at national level and others, WHO adopted a global digital health strategy in 2020 to advance and apply digital health technologies for better health outcomes.

The committee would also discuss and adopt the framework for effective implementation across nations.

The group added that the special event on covid-19 would focus on the current state and include a status report on vaccine rollout and uptake. The ministers are equally brainstorming on post-pandemic recovery plans.

WHO said over 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa needed at least one assistive technology product, with the figure projected to double by 2050. Currently, only about 15 to 25 per cent of the people in need have access to them.

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