There is consensus among health ministers and experts attending the 67th WHO Regional Committee meeting that the tragic Ebola outbreak in West Africa was a good wake up call for the continent to strengthen its preparedness and build resilient health systems.
As the region seeks to improve the well-being of the people on the continent in line with the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, experts said shortage of resources, the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases, failure to embrace technology and limited investment towards research, are some of the hurdles requiring urgent attention.
The 67th WHO Regional Committee meeting taking place in the resort town of Victoria Falls has provided an opportunity for health ministers from the continent to not only celebrate the milestones achieved in the regional health sector but most importantly to reflect on the challenges on the ground.
Despite the reduction in new infections, HIV/AIDS remains a major headache for the continent, while high rate of maternal mortality, ill-equipped public hospitals and rising cases of non-communicable diseases are also some of the hurdles which the continent must confront.
AU Commissioner of Social Affairs, Mrs Amira Elfadial is convinced that the limited resources and constrained budgetary support towards health sector are threats to the realisation of the vibrant health delivery system across the continent.
Communicable and non-communicable diseases, the re-emergence of the neglected tropical diseases and the resistant tuberculosis provide a new burden for the continent, according to the delegates.
WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admitted that the continent remains vulnerable to outbreaks and is ill-equipped to deal with major epidemics.
Nigeria’s Minister of State Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire said Africa has moved with slow pace in increasing investment towards research and adopting modern technologies.
Despite the challenging environment, the African health officials are determined to improving the health and well-being of the people on the continent.
With a strong political will and collective effort, the African health officials are convinced that a resilient health system which can contribute to the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will soon become a reality.