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African Ministers of Health meet in Angola

Apr 15, 2014, 9:06 AM

African ministers of health are attending a conference jointly convened by the African Union Commission and World Health Organisation, which got under way in Luanda, Angola, on Monday.

The 14 to 17 April 2014 meeting is being attended by African ministers in charge of health, development actors, private sector representatives, representatives of NGOs and UN agencies.

The key objective of the four-day meeting is to provide a forum for member states, UN agencies, development partners and other stakeholders to discuss, among others, the followings:

Universal health coverage in Africa: from concept to action; African Medicines Agency: setting milestones to establish a centralized regulatory system for medical products; non-communicable diseases in Africa: policies and strategies to address risk factors; prevention of maternal and child mortality: review of the plan of action; establishment of an African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention; and, accountability mechanisms to assess the implementation of declarations and other commitments made by African ministers of health.

The minister of Health of Angola, José Van-Dunem Monday in Luanda, stressed the need for member states of the African Union to remain vigilant and active to eradicate the Ebola virus in Guinea and Liberia.

The Angolan government official made this statement during his speech at the opening of the first meeting of African ministers of Health.

He advised the populations of the countries affected by the disease to avoid consuming meat of wild animals; that people should avoid contact with patients infected by the Ebola virus, and to redouble hygienic care such as regular hand-washing with soap and water.

Van Dunem appealed to the participants to engage more towards eradicating polio in the continent and decrease cases of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other neglected and non-communicable diseases.

While there have been some advances in the clinical sector, he acknowledged that Africa is the continent where there is a higher prevalence of cases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other neglected and non-communicable pandemics.

Background:

Throughout their many years of partnership, the AUC and WHO have continuously explored ways to reinforce their collaboration and with theaim of obtaining better growth and development outcomesfor populations across Africa.

Guided by their respective legal and political instruments, and in the scope of their collaboration agreement, the two institutions decided to jointly organize bi-annual meetings of African ministers of health.

These meetings should create opportunities for deliberation and decision-making on the critical health issues that affect populations in African countries, and on which political and public health authorities are requested to intervene in a strategic and efficient manner.

The need and desire by African countries was reinforced at the 6th ordinary session of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Health held in Addis Ababa in April 2013, and was also reiterated by the 22nd ordinary session of the African Union heads of state and government summit held in Addis Ababa in January 2014.

WAHO-Health Ministers’ Meeting

Meanwhile, a six-day meeting of the 15th ordinary meeting of the Assembly of ECOWAS health ministers, under the auspices of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), got under way in Monrovia.

WAHO, the specialized health agency of ECOWAS, organised the meeting in collaboration with the Liberian ministry of Health and Social Welfare under the theme: Universal Health Coverage: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities.

WAHO began its meeting since last Wednesday, while the ministers met on April 11 and 12, 2014 to discuss health issues in the West African sub-region, especially in the wake of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. The meeting brought together delegates from the 15 countries of ECOWAS, the directorate of the WAHO, partners, as well as the ministers.

Welcoming the sub-regional health ministers to Liberia when she delivered her keynote address, in advance of their meeting on Friday April 11, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf expressed the hope that as they met, the ministers and delegates would share with Liberia their own experiences that addressed deadly diseases such as Ebola, noting that their presence in the country has given a lot of confidence to Liberians and other residents that the situation was being managed.

While Liberians and their neighbors in Guinea and Sierra Leone deeply appreciate such intervention in the wake of the spread of the Ebola virus, especially just following the recent ECOWAS heads of state summit in the Ivorian political capital, Yamoussoukro, when Liberia and Guinea officially reported the spread of the Ebola virus, it is hope that the outcome of the assembly in Monrovia will be speedily made practical.

As international partners, including the medical charity, Medicans Sans Frontiers, as well as the United States government, WAHO and the governments of the ECOWAS countries will do everything humanly possible so that together with the partners, deadly health issues, including Ebola can be aggressively address to safe humanity in the West African sub-region.

As our international partners are helping us in the battle against Ebola, our governments must show some appreciation and commitment by directing some of their financial resources to such an urgent and necessary cause so as to further motivate international partners and donors to do even more. We must now begin to “rob our stomach, as our partners wash our backs,” instead of exhibiting the usual complacency after such an important meeting in Monrovia.

Other being a member of the international community, we must continue to express gratitude to our international partners and donors, including United States government, the Bill Gates Foundation, George Soros Foundation, European Union, United Nations System, as well as the various international medical charities for their respective interventions in West Africa.

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