Stakeholders at the ongoing Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC2023) in Kigali, Rwanda, have stressed the need for adequate investment in public health as a key component in combating diseases in the continent.
According to them, the ultimate goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of the African people as envisaged in Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the AHAIC 2023 is jointly convened by Amref Health Africa, the Ministry of Health Rwanda, the African Union and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
It brings together Africa’s top thought leaders, political figures, innovators, researchers, policymakers, health workers and community mobilisers for dialogue and action aimed at mainstreaming climate discourse into health policy conversations, and vice versa.
The gathering held from March 5 to March 8 has as its theme: ‘Resilient Health Systems for Africa: Re-envisioning the Future Now.
Dr Ahmed Ouma, the acting Director, Africa CDC, said: “The experience we’ve had through the COVID-19 pandemic and recent outbreaks such as Mpox, Ebola, cholera etc., is a direct consequence of an inadequate investment in public health.
“In the health workforce, in pandemic preparedness and response machinery, and in the actual health system itself.
“We are living through the consequences of a failure to adequately invest and prioritise public health needs in Africa.
“This is the very impetus for Africa CDC’s New Public Health Order guided by principles of local ownership, leadership, equity, innovation, and self-reliance.’’
He noted the need for every sector to be strengthened as failure posed strain on the health sector, which is the “ultimate’’ burden bearer.
“Every sector that fails, it becomes a health problem.
“Any interruption in a supply chain for both health and non-health products results in negative health consequences.
“Our health systems cannot be effective if we do not acknowledge and prepare for risks and pressures outside the health system itself.
“That is why we are currently responding to the growing cholera outbreak in multiple countries because other sectors are facing challenges that are now translating into health problems.
“We must work across sectors to reduce such hits on the health system.’’
According to him, it is also important to incorporate a One Health Approach in how we strategise for and manage our disease prevention and control efforts in the continent.
He said that as part of efforts to achieve these, the Africa CDC was supporting Ministries of Health and National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs) to build capacity, while simultaneously improving coordination for the prevention and control of priority zoonotic diseases across other integral parts of the health sector.
“ We are also supporting our countries to establish and operationalise Public Health Emergency Operations Centres (PHEOCs), as championed by his Excellency President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia.
“ PHEOCs should be the central coordinating hubs for disease surveillance and response coordination across Africa,’’ Ouma said.
“It is high time that our African nations enhance their capacity for epidemiological surveillance system by adopting the “One Health” approach and other cross-sector and cross-border cooperation.
“Build research capacity at the human-animal-ecosystem interface; train and retain competent Human Resource for health to deal with NCDs, emerging and re-emerging diseases and other public health traits which include Antimicrobial resistance and climate change.’’
Dr Githinji Gitahi, the Global Chief Executive Officer of Amref Health Africa, noted that at present, Africa and its people were at a critical crossroads tackling four frictions.
“I call these the 4 Cs: COVID-19 and public health threats, Climate Change, Conflict in Africa and elsewhere as well as Cost of living.
“While the burden of COVID-19 has lessened, recent outbreaks of other diseases such as Ebola, Marburg, and cholera demonstrate that our health security is always at risk.
“In the face of these complex and compounding crises, previous hard-fought progress is at risk – the systems we have worked hard to build threaten to fall apart.
“But seeing you all here, full of energy and enthusiasm tells me we are not without hope!
“We are all here because you believe in the power of the African people to shape their own future. Not only that a better future for Africa, but a better future for everyone because we are all as vulnerable as our weakest link.
Gitahi, a former co-chair of the UHC2030, urged everyone to come together as ‘One Africa, One Economy for Health’ to forge a collective commitment to the journey of building a shared vision.
“One that reimagines our health systems to meet the needs of communities under the current threats of Climate, COVID-19, Conflict and Cost of living,’’ he said. (NAN)
Article first published on https://www.nannews.ng/2023/03/06/ahaic2023-africa-cdc-experts-call-for-adequate-investment-in-public-health/