Commonwealth Health Ministers across the 54 countries are holding a two-day Annual Summit to liaise with experts and share experiences of health challenges including the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The meeting that is being held virtually is running under the theme: ‘Commonwealth response to COVID-19: Ensuring equitable access to vaccines and building resilience for health systems and emergencies.
Speaking during the ministerial discussion and giving Kenyan report on sustaining health gains, Health Cabinet Secretary (CS), Mutahi Kagwe said that the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has presented new dynamics which have interrupted the health care system
“For instance, the number of mental health cases increased by nearly 30 per cent from 1.8 to 2.3 per 1,000 patients, also recorded was a marked reduction in the outpatient visits and disruption of routine health services such as immunization and communicable and non-communicable disease clinics,” he said.
Clearly, the CS said that Covid-19 disease has the potential to jeopardize health systems and stall progress in the sector.
Whereas it’s easy to focus on the challenges, the CS explained that there has been a ‘silver lining in the dark cloud’ especially in terms of community behaviour change with people increasing their hand hygiene and also increase in the capacity of health facilities to handle critically ill patients.
“These are the gains that must be sustained and we must have a paradigm shift and move away from the traditional way of delivering health care,” he said.
The CS noted that Kenya made this shift and began to implement high impact and low-cost models as the means to sustaining preventive measures and health gains.
The CS said despite the challenges, there is need for regional cooperation for all to succeed.
“We must speak, think, pull and implement strategies together. We have already seen the power of collective action when Africa CDC made it possible for African countries to receive PPEs, Covid vaccine doses and testing reagents,” he said.
Together as commonwealth countries, the CS added will be stronger in identifying and implementing high impact, low-cost interventions that will position countries to sustain health gains and grow our individual economies.
“A healthy region is a wealthy region. A healthy nation is a wealthy nation ! ” Kagwe said.
The CS noted that the Covid – 19 Pandemic has interrupted health delivery and anticipated gains across the World and that in Kenya, before Covid significant gains in the health arena had been realized.
“The maternal mortality had declined by 3 per cent in two years, the overall prevalence of malaria had reduced by 43 per cent to 5.6 per cent in 2019, HIV incidence had dropped by 48 per cent to 1.4 percent and TB incidence by 40 per cent in 2019,” Kagwe said.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland and the World Health Organization’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, delivered the keynote remarks.
By Wangari Ndirangu