Rabat — Given that the health sectors of Maghreb countries face the same challenges, health ministers agree that the best remedy is co-operation.
"The current situation requires a joint effort by states in the region to bring appropriate solutions to the problems we share," Libyan Health Minister Abdelhamid Daghman told his peers at a ministerial summit in Rabat on January 16th.
The 11th Council of Maghreb Health Ministers discussed the provision of health services to remote and isolated areas, the interference between the public and private sectors, medication policies across the Maghreb and other topics.
Moroccan Health Minister Houssein El Ouardi signalled the need to increase the number of meetings to respond to the shared challenges.
"The countries of the Maghreb experience similar health problems because of their geographical proximity and shared lifestyles, culture, history and language. The dream of a Maghreb Union (UMA) will only be realised through co-operation in various strategic areas such as health," he added.
"Maghreb co-operation is an irreversible strategic choice," El Ouardi stressed.
The minister called for wider collaboration on the joint purchasing of medical and hospital equipment, health insurance, mental health and solutions to the problem of accessing healthcare in rural areas.
"The recommendations of this 11th session had essentially to do with the need to improve health among mothers and infants, vocational training and medication policies," said El Ouardi.
Although much still needed to be done to strengthen Maghreb collaboration on health, "joint action has already been taken, particularly in epidemiological monitoring, vaccination programmes, improved health provision in schools and universities, combating new diseases and so on", Tunisian Health Minister Abdellatif Mekki noted.
"Greater Maghreb co-operation in the health sector will help improve the daily lives of Maghreb citizens," commented sociologist Samiha Cherrat.
"UMA countries need to deploy a joint approach to facilitate public access to healthcare", she said. "The partnership could cover a number of areas including the training of qualified human resources, pooling experience and sending out joint calls for tender when purchasing equipment," she added.
Members of the public are hopeful that the necessary reforms will be implemented.
"The partnership should not simply concern health, but every sector directly affecting people's everyday lives, such as education, housing, the employment of young graduates etc.," one 25-year old teacher told Magharebia.
"The challenges are similar all over the Maghreb and can only be resolved quickly and effectively through greater co-operation," Hayat Jennoudi added.