African health ministers participating in a meeting of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa have adopted a new eight-year strategy to transform health security and emergency response in the region.
The Regional Strategy for Health Security and Emergencies 2022–2030 was endorsed on Friday during the 72nd session of the Committee in Lomé, Togo.
The strategy, inspired by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fragile health systems on the continent, aims to reduce the health and socio-economic impacts of public health emergencies.
“COVID-19 is a wake-up call for the African region to prioritise building resilient health systems capable of providing quality healthcare while coping with public health emergencies,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “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 added.
Moeti said that the strategy is the fruit of extensive consultations with African health ministers.
“This strategy is the fruit of extensive consultations with African health ministries and a range of other institutions, technical actors and partners across the continent,” Moeti said, expressing the hope that their ongoing support and collaboration would help ensure that Africa is at the forefront of protecting the world against future pandemics.
Member states agreed to commit political will and provide technical leadership, mobilise 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 decentralised levels. The new strategy includes strengthening mechanisms for partnerships and multisectoral 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.
WHO has already rolled out parts of the strategy in Botswana, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Togo. There are 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. WHO estimates that up to 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 USD 3 per person a year.
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