ADDIS ABABA – African Health Ministers and officials have gathered today for the annual World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa meeting, which will set the continent’s health agenda for the next twelve months.
The three-day session is being held virtually for the second year in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While opening the session, Prime Minister Victoire Tomegah Dogbé of Togo called for stronger global solidarity to ensure Covid-19 vaccine equity.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the urgent need for global solidarity, which is highlighted by the need for countries to seek effective protective measures, both individually and collectively,” said Prime Minister Dogbé.
The need to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic was echoed by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
“Covid-19 presents both an opportunity and a stark warning of the need to re-think systems that reinforce justices, and to invest more in building a healthier, fairer world,” she said.
This year’s WHO Regional Committee for Africa focuses on ways to scale up the Covid-19 response, renew the efforts to end all forms of polio, eliminate cervical cancer as well as enhance the use of health technologies.
The meeting will discuss measures to improve healthy ageing on the continent as well as reinforcing the fight against tuberculosis, HIV, sexually transmitted infections and hepatitis, and defeating meningitis by 2030 among other key health priorities.
Delegates at the Regional Committee will also deliberate on how to improve access to assistive technology in sub-Saharan Africa, where the prevalence of disability ranges between 15% and 25% and over 200 million people need at least one assistive technology product.
The region seeks to have 40% of the population in need of assistive products gain access to them by 2030 without suffering financial hardship, according to WHO.
More than 400 health officials from 47 African countries as well as representatives from United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, academia and development partners are attending the meeting.
The Regional Committee is the WHO’s decision-making body in the region, convening once a year to discuss and endorse regional policies, activities and financial plans to improve people’s health and wellbeing.