1 February 2013

Gambia: WHO Rep Briefs Health Minister

The World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in The Gambia recently met the minister of Health and Social Welfare. Dr. Thomas Sukwa's courtesy call on Minister Bala Garba Jahumpa was meant to brief the latter and his team on WHO's mandate, core functions, and structure.

Receiving the WHO team in his office, the Health minister expressed delight at all the interventions that WHO has rendered in this country. He cited the priority areas of health strengthening and maternal & child health, saying it is inline with what he gathered from the field during his nationwide tour.

He said this will be the basis of the proposed joint programme review and requested that his team come up with dates for this review where some of the gaps such as lack of basic equipment and supplies in some health facilities can be addressed. He also recommended for regular meetings of all stakeholders in the health sector under WHO support.

For his part, Dr. Thomas Sukwa thanked the Health minister and congratulated him for his new appointment. He informed the minister and team that WHO is a specialised UN agency on health matters and works very closely with the Ministries of Health in all the countries. He added that in The Gambia, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is its key partner.

The WHO boss further stated: "Our goal as an organisation is really to ensure that we promote health and ensure that people have access to the highest possible quality of care in the settings that they are. This aspiration has been our core mission since 1948 when the organisation was set up."

Dr Sukwa also gave a run-down of the WHO structure at both the global and regional levels, and informed the minister about the statutory meetings that are convened for health ministers.

Dilating on the Country Office's structure and operations, Dr. Sukwa said WHO has been operating in The Gambia for over 30 years and he was privileged to be the head of this office since 22nd July 2008. He said the role of WHO is to provide technical support to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in terms of the attainment of national, regional and global targets. He reiterated that WHO is not an implementing agency and that all its interventions are executed through the line Ministry and in this case, it is really the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

He drew the attention of the team to the Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS),which binds WHO and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in their collaboration. "This CCS normally spans over a period of six years and the current one started in 2008 and it ends in 2013," he disclosed.

The WHO country rep highlighted the four major priority areas of the current Country Cooperation Strategy:- Health systems strengthening - focus on really having health systems that are responsive to the needs of the people; Maternal and Child Health incorporating sexual and reproductive health- focus on maternal and child health for the country to achieve the MDG targets; communicable or infectious diseases as well as non- communicable diseases - focus on disease prevention and control and emergencies and the link between health and the environment.

He reminded the team of the operational plans or programme budget which is jointly developed on a two-yearly basis, saying this is the last two years of the six-year medium-term strategic Plan 2008-2013. He finally reassured the minister of WHO's commitment and continued support to the people of The Gambia to achieve their aspirations to better health by 2020 which is in line with the national Vision 2020, National Health Policy 2012-2020, and the PAGE document.

Matty Bouy, the permanent secretary, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, thanked WHO for its support over the past years and said she looks forward to continued collaboration.

Present at the meeting were officials from both the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and WHO.

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