African health ministers have adopted a new eight-year strategy to transform health security and emergency response in the region.
Spurred by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fragile health systems, the Regional Strategy for Health Security and Emergencies 2022–2030 aims to reduce the health and socioeconomic impacts of public health emergencies.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in a press release, said endorsement of the strategy during the 72nd session of the Regional Committee for Africa, the COVID-19 is a wakeup call for the continent to build resilient health systems.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said plans were underway to build health systems capable of providing quality healthcare to cope with public health emergencies.
“There is a growing recognition of the mounting threat public health emergencies pose to global economies and societies, underlining the need for a One-Health approach and investing in prevention and preparedness. By investing now, we can prevent an economic and social meltdown in the future”, she said.
Dr. Moeti explained that the strategy which is the result of extensive consultations with African health ministries and a range of other institutions, technical actors and partners across the continent can help ensure that Africa is at the forefront of protecting the world against future pandemics.
WHO estimates that up to Sh 479.6 billion (USD 4 billion) is needed annually from international and domestic sources to fully fund core health security capacities in the region and better prepare for the next pandemic. This works out to around Sh 360 (USD 3) per person a year.
The new strategy will include strengthening mechanisms for partnerships and multi-sectoral collaboration, ensuring sustained and predictable investment and repurposing resources from polio eradication and COVID-19 to support strategic investments in systems and tools for public health emergencies.
By adopting the strategy, Member States have agreed to reach 12 targets by 2030 which will strengthen their capacity to prevent, prepare for, detect and respond to health emergencies, including 80 percent of Member States having predictable and sustainable health security financing, 90 percent mobilizing an effective response to public health emergencies within 24 hours of detection and all countries having 80 percent of health districts with functional service delivery and quality improvement programmes.
Following the launch of a flagship initiative to assist countries operationalize the newly adopted strategy, it is currently being rolled out in five early implementation countries across the region namely Botswana, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Togo with plans to expand this number significantly before the end of the year and for the programmes to be scaled up regionally over the next five years.
Globally, the African region reports the heaviest burden of public health emergencies. Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the top causes of epidemics in the region were cholera, measles, yellow fever, meningococcal meningitis, influenza and viral haemorrhagic fevers, most of which are preventable by strengthening routine immunization.
Member States which include Kenya agreed to commit political will and provide technical leadership, mobilize domestic and external resources, provide adequate human and logistic resources to implement the strategy, as well as strengthen a One Health coordination mechanism and build capacity at the national and decentralized levels.
by Wangari Ndirangu