By Jonathan Abass Kamara
The Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation 1, Madam Madina Rahman has returned home as head of the Sierra Leone delegation to the 66th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa held on August 19-23, 2016 in Addis Ababa in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Deputy Health and Sanitation Minister 1, Madam Madina Rahman
Madam Madina Rahman on behalf of the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, the government and people of Sierra Leone ably show-case Sierra Leone’s health system strengthening strategy towards building a resilient health system during discussions.
She participated in various sessions which includes Global Strategy for Women’s Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2016-2030 implementation in the African region, Health in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, Addressing oral diseases as part of Non-Communicable Diseases Oral Health Strategy for 2016-2025, Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Ageing and Health, and Recommendations of the review committee on the role of the International Health Regulations (2005) in the Ebola outbreak and response among other key health issues including the framework for implementing the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 in the African region.
Addressing the official opening ceremony, the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Dr. Mulatu Teshome and the Minister of Health, Dr. Kesetu Dirthan Admasu Birhane welcomed the national authorities and the delegates and recalled the numerous agenda items which reflect the health challenges that the region still faces, despite significant progress in some areas.
The Ethiopia Health Minister noted that addressing these challenges would require collective approaches and opined for successful deliberations.
The WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan highlighted some unique public health features of Ethiopia, especially the training and massive deployment of a new cadre of health extension workers, and the achievement of the MDG of reducing childhood mortality two years ahead of schedule.
She noted that the five-year development framework of the WHO Regional Office, the Transformation programme, with universal health coverage as its vision, aims to capitalize on a number of encouraging trends in the region: unprecedented economic growth; emergence of a solid middle class and a vibrant and innovative younger generation. Dr. Chan reminded Member States that with poverty hampering progress on all fronts, there was still a long way to go before the region could catch up with the rest of the world.
She congratulated Africa for making considerable progress despite challenges such as recurrent emergencies and security threats. Dr. Chan considered reduction in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as a significant return on investment and reminded delegates that Africa still bore the heaviest burden of infectious diseases while facing the challenge of overstretched health systems and the growing burden of non-communicable diseases.
She highlighted the links between poverty and health care. According to her, poverty undermines health, cripples the performance of health systems and denies the resources to implement priority interventions. Dr. Chan called on all stakeholders of health development in the region to join to eliminate poverty as underscored in the Sustainable Development Goal agenda and to ensure the security of our collective health stock. She also emphasized that the future of Africa depends on its people and not on the price of commodities such as mineral resources. Thus, countries’ primary focus should be on the development of human resources for sustainable development in the region.
Dr. Chan emphasized the need to ensure proper funding for implementing WHO reforms, strengthening health systems and building capacity to respond to emergencies. She expressed great confidence in the ability of Africa and its people to improve their health. While noting that this was the last time she would address the Regional Committee as WHO Director-General, expressing her willingness to continue to partner with the region even in retirement.
Making his statement, His Excellency Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, acknowledge the progress made in improving health and increasing life expectancy. He further stressed that health in the region remained a challenge, given the growing burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and that all countries needed to remain committed.
During the discussions, Member States acknowledged the inclusion of the new health emergencies programme as well as the increase in the budget allocation to the Region. They expressed concern about the reduced budget for some priority programmes, the continues decline in the proportion of the budget financed by Assessed Contributions (AC), weak alignment of indicators between the programme Budget and the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and lack of budget allocations for areas of work relevant to the region.
The following recommendations were made to Member States: Provide written feedback to the secretariat and fully engage in the discussions during the Executive Board in January 2017; and advocate for an increase in Assessed Contributions.