5 December 2012

Africa: AU Commission Chairperson Dr. Dlamini Zuma Attends the AGM Graduation of College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa

AU Commission Chairperson Dr. Dlamini Zuma attends the 13th Annual General Meeting and Graduation Ceremony of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) on 5 December 2012, African Union Assembly Hall, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The Surgical Society of Ethiopia is the organiser of the 13th Annual General Meeting of College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSESCA). The host, President of the Surgical Society of Ethiopia, DR. Miliard Derbew noted that since they first hosted the AGM in 2002, many changes have taken place in Ethiopia, including the establishment of new medical schools. The Society plays an important role in the development of surgery across disciplines and in the training of Ethiopian surgeons. The society is also very active working for the upliftment of the general health status of the country, including through surgery camps, having performed over 3000 surgeries across Ethiopia, especially in rural areas. In 2012, the Ethiopian government accredited the Society's programme, as the premier accreditation and training body for surgeons. Training is done in hospitals, limiting displacement of doctors whilst they are training. At the same time, it helps hospitals to improve their facilities and in turn improve services to their communities.

The President of COSECSA, Dr. CA Samkange introduced the Council of COSECSA, which includes former Presidents of COSECSA. The President announced that Burundi is the latest country that has been admitted to the College as a member. COSECSA creates a platform for research and in this regard, the COSECSA conference had a good response to the call for articles, and selected eighty-three (83) research papers for presentation to the Conference.

The College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa, Dr. Samkange explained, 'is a college without walls, with the aim to provide training and services to people in rural areas. We train in those rural areas and we train people where they provide services.' The College introduced a first this year, when a group of surgeons from a number of countries (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana) held a surgical camp in Maseru, Lesotho, in the spirit of African integration and solidarity. 'This was not just a camp providing surgical services, it was also an opportunity to train the local practitioners, both doctors and nurses. We are pleased to contribute to the AU dream that Africa will now provide solutions to African problems.'

Various sister organisations of COSECSA gave messages of support, including the West African Surgical Society, who called for greater harmonisation and cooperation across the continent. The College of Surgeons of South Africa cooperates with COSECSA through an MOU recognising each others' qualifications, exchanging examiners and college exchanges. The dream is that Africa should have a single unitary external examination for surgeons on the continent. There are just over 140 000 surgeons across Sub-Saharan Africa so we need to do more in the field of training.

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini greeted the Minister of Health of Ethiopia, the esteemed hosts and guests and made her statement:

'We are very proud to host you at the African Union Conference Centre, because you are part of the large family of African institutions that must contribute to our collective goal of an integrated and prosperous continent, at peace with itself. This is also your home.

At the centre of our African agenda is the need for us to focus on human development. Professional health associations such as COSECSA (College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa) play an important role in developing integrated approaches towards health issues on our continent, in addition to your key role of ensuring the education and training of the next generation of surgeons on our continent.

The vision of a prosperous continent can only be realised if we ensure that the African citizenry are healthy, have access to health services and live in conditions that are conducive for good health. That is why we have singled out as an urgent priority the issue of maternal and infant mortality. We must ensure that we make it safe for women of our continent to give birth and to live to see their children prosper.

We must also more generally work to improve our health systems and access to all citizens to affordable health care. This includes training sufficient numbers of health professionals and increasing investments in research as a way of strengthening our health systems.

Surgery in the past was seen as a luxury, and not easily accessible to the populace. And yet, there is increasing evidence 'that relatively simple, cost-effective and curative surgical procedures can avert disability and premature death, but may be life-saving as well in life-threatening emergencies and other conditions.'

The importance of surgery will continue to grow as the burden of non-communicable disease, especially trauma, continues to increase, especially amongst our young population. Already in Sub-Saharan Africa injury is a major cause of death and disability for children aged 5 and over.

Dr. Dlamini Zuma concluded her statement with the observation that the meeting of COSESCA came at an opportune moment, on the eve of the celebrations of fifty years of the OAU and AU. She therefore looks forward to the contribution of African Societies and Colleges of Surgeons to the African agenda vision, in particular creating conditions for healthy and productive African citizens. Dr. Dlamini Zuma wished the Conference fruitful deliberations.

Concluding remarks were made by Minister of Health, HE Kebede Worku of Ethiopia, who welcomed all delegates to Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union and referred to Ethiopia's Five Year Development plan. Based on this plan, Ethiopia is confident it will meet the MDGs by 2015 in the health sector. The country dramatically increased the number of medical schools, and also increased the number of training facilities for surgeons. The government therefore values the work of Cosecsa and the Surgical Society of Ethiopia.

The Graduation Ceremony that followed saw for the first time in 2012, the graduation of over 100 surgeons as part of the COSESCA programme, and the awarding of prices to the best performing graduates. The event also honoured a number of esteemed and illustrious surgeons who have made an invaluable contribution to the profession.

African Union Commission

Addis Ababa, 5 December 2012

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