East Africa: Zanzibar Minister Opens 9th Ordinary Meeting of EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health

press release

Zanzibar — The Minister in the Ministry of State, 2nd Vice President's Office of Zanzibar, Hon. Mohamed Aboud Mohamed today officially opened the Ministerial Session of the 9th Ordinary meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health taking place at the Zanzibar Beach Resort Hotel in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

The Guest of Honour called for more concerted efforts to support the health sector in the EAC given its central role in influencing the attainment of EAC's mission to widen and deepen economic, political, social and culture integration in order to improve the quality of life of the people of the region.

In this regard, Hon. Mohamed also called upon the Partner States to keep pace with the rapid changes in the health sector including changing needs and demands of the populations and innovations. This will go a long way in maintaining the region's momentum towards improved health outcomes.

"We may not build the perfect health systems as envisioned by the Alma Ata declaration of 1978 now, but all the efforts we are putting together will surely get us there. I am hopeful that the growing movement of Universal Health Coverage, supported by scale up of healthcare innovations will help us attain affordable and quality healthcare for all", he noted. The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors Hon. Jesca Eriyo, reiterated the need to continue pursuing the spirit of the Alma-Ata declaration of 1978, which among others, agitates for increased access to quality and equitable health services for all.

'It is therefore our role to ensure healthcare is affordable and comprehensive for everyone and accessible where and when needed", she noted and urged the Partners States to take stock of achievements made in view of the fast approaching deadline for the MDGs, identification of gaps and challenges and called for development of innovative approaches to accelerate progress.

She commended the Coordination Committee for having endorsed the development of an EAC Health Scorecard to track implementation of commitments in line with Common Market Protocol and agreeing on the way forward for implementation of various strategic regional projects including the operationalization of the EAC Health Research Commission. In doing this, she called for Partners State led and private sector supported processes.

Hon. Eriyo pointed out that relevance and sustainability of regional health development programmes could only be guaranteed by Partner States' driven process and called upon all to strive to ensure that health is seen as being central to regional efforts to improve the quality of life of the people of the region and create wealth.

Earlier, the Chairperson of the Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health, Hon. James Macharia, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Health, called upon the region to embrace and make the necessary steps to realize the vision of universal health coverage for the people while appreciating the great strides that Partner States have made in this field. He encouraged the Partner States to share freely, their success stories, best practices and lessons learned in their progression, especially towards Universal Health Coverage.

"Access to health products, in particular essential medicines and anti-retroviral therapy, is of paramount importance to us in the African Continent", he noted. Adding that "the East African region had not been spared the high socio-economic burden caused by communicable diseases that include HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and other neglected tropical diseases while Non-Communicable diseases are the rise".

The Chair of the Sectoral Council urged Partner States and the EAC Secretariat to move with speed to realize the vision of the East African Community Regional Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan of Action 2012-2016 in order to increase access of these essential commodities for the good of our people. The Head of Uganda delegation, Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, Minister of State for Health (General Duties), noted that despite achievements in the health sector, the community was still facing many challenges such as Human Resources for Health crisis; threats of emerging diseases and epidemic outbreaks; lack of sustainable Health care financing culminating in high out of pocket expenditures on health and inadequate access to appropriate technologies. "As a region we need to develop innovative and appropriate ways of overcoming these challenges".

Dr. Tumwesiye called for stronger support and monitoring and evaluation of these projects and reaffirmed his Country's commitment to timely implementation of Council decisions and directives.

The Head of Tanzania delegation, Hon. Dr. Kebwe Stephen Kebwe, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, United Republic of Tanzania noted that the Health sector was important in the EAC integration process, particularly to a population that can afford and access health services. He further noted that the meeting was taking place at a time of the implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol where the harmonization of laws and policies was necessary to create a common health environment. He re-affirmed Tanzania's commitment to the regional integration and development process.

On behalf of the Minister of Health Rwanda, Dr. Uzziel Ndagijimana, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health reiterated that Regional Integration was not a choice. "It is a must if we want to progress together economically and politically; if we want to strengthen our position as a bloc in international relations; it is also a must if we want to improve our competitiveness in the globalized world economy" affirmed the Permanent Secretary.

He said in this journey of regional integration, cooperation in health was critical and "we have already made some good progress in this area as a region, although there is still a long way to go together".

He noted that there were still many areas to harmonize in the heath sector, and also the need to strengthen the health infrastructure, and address gaps in numbers and quality of the health personnel.

"We still have to strengthen our health financing systems and we still have gaps in the universal health coverage in the EAC. Our pharmaceutical industry is weak, not competitive, but also not promoted enough to benefit from the regional market. As a consequence we are over dependent on importation of health commodities from over seas" observed the leader of the Rwandan delegation.

The Head of Burundi delegation, Hon. Dr. Sabine Ntakarutimana, Minister of Health and Fight Against HIV/AIDS, called for equitable distribution of the advantages of the community, especially through the operationalization of the East African Health Research Commission and the conduct of HIV behavioral study in Burundi Universities like done in other Partner States.

Some of the decisions of the 9th Ordinary meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health:

- The Ministers of directed the EAC Secretariat to develop an EAC Regional Health Sector Scorecard for tracking compliance of agreed policies, laws, regulations and decisions under the health sector.

- Under the EAC Regional Cooperation and integration on Health Systems, Research and Policy among the EAC Partner States, the Sectoral Council directed the Secretariat to finalize the draft Protocol on EAC Regional Cooperation on Health and present it to the 10th Meeting of the Sectoral Council on Health for consideration and adoption

- The Sectoral Council also considered and endorsed 30th March to 1st April, 2016 as the dates for the 5th Annual East African Health and Scientific Conference to be held in Bujumbura, Burundi.

- The Sectoral Council directed the EAC Secretariat to work with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to identify the priority areas of collaboration with NMRAs and ensure that the implementation of the project is done through the respective Ministries and the National Medicines Regulatory Authorities. The EAC Secretariat is to spearhead conclusion of an MoU with LSHTM).

- The Sectoral Council urged EAC Partner States to establish Boards and Councils for Radiology and Imaging, Optometry, and Environmental Health Practice, where they do not have these Boards and Councils; and directed the EAC Secretariat to develop a Regional Policy and legal framework on Traditional and Alternative Health practice

- The Sectoral Council directed the EAC Secretariat to expedite the establishment of the East African Community Health Professional Regulatory Authority (EACHPRA) in line with the decisions of the 15th Ordinary Meetings of the EAC Council of Ministers; and to engage the services of a Legal and Health experts to prepare the draft Bill for the establishment of EACHPRA.

- It also considered and approved the proposed Organisational structure, human resource requirements and budget for the operationalization of the East African Health Research Commission (EAHRC) in Bujumbura, Burundi during the 2014/2015 fiscal year

The Ministers of Health adopted the distribution of Partner States responsibilities as indicated below:

The Republic of Uganda will Provide support in the following areas:-

i. Review and Harmonization of the EAC Partner States National Health Policies and Laws on the regulation of various health professions in each country

ii. Drafting of EAC Partner States' National Health Professions Authority Bills for each Country

iii. Drafting of the EAC Regional Health Professions Regulatory Authority (EACHPRA) Bill, 2014 in collaboration with the EAC Secretariat.

The United Republic of Tanzania will Provide support in the following areas:-

i. Review and Harmonization of EAC Partner States' National Pharmaceutical Policies, Laws and Regulations;

ii. Development of the EAC Regional Pharmaceutical Policies, Laws and Regulations;

iii. Review and Harmonization of EAC Partner States' National Health Policies and Laws on the regulation of Medicines and Food Safety and the regulation of Medical Devices and Diagnostics through the strengthening and harmonization of the National Medicines Regulatory Authorities (NMRAs) of each country;

iv. Drafting of the East African Community Medicines and Food Safety Commission (EACMFSC) Bill.

The Republic of Rwanda will Provide support in the following areas:-

i. Review and harmonization of EAC Partner States' National Procurement Policies, Laws, Regulations and Guidelines (including Standard Treatment Guidelines and the essential Drugs List) for the procurement and use of essential medicines and health supplies;

ii. Operationalization of the "EAC Regional Pooled Bulk Procurement of essential medicines and health supplies through "Group Contracting Mechanism" as approved by the 15th EAC Council of Ministers

iii. Review and harmonization of EAC Partner States' National Social Health Protection (SHP) Policies, Laws and Regulations in order to promote Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and facilitate portability of Pensions and Health insurance across the EAC region.

The Republic of Burundi will Provide support in the following areas: -

1. Health Scorecard - Develop EAC Regional health scorecard for compliance with EAC regional health policies, laws and regulations and guidelines in accordance with the "EAC Common Market Protocol".

The Republic of Kenya will Provide support in the following areas: -

i. Review and Harmonization of EAC Partner States' National Policies, Laws, Regulations and Guidelines on various Health Professional Trainings and Practice with focus on basic trainings, internship, practice for priority Health professionals and the development of EAC regional policies, laws, regulations and guidelines for joint inspection of training and internship institutions.

ii. Drafting process of proposed amendments to the "East African Community Standards, Quality, Metrology and Testing (SQMT) Act, 2006"

The Sectoral Council considered the Multi-National East African Community Regional Centres of Excellence (CoE) for Skills and Tertiary Education in Higher Medical and Health Sciences Education Program and adopted the following Centers of Excellence (CoE) and their distribution as follows:

(i) The Republic of Kenya to host the "East African Community Regional Kidney Institute (EACKI)".

(ii) The United Republic of Tanzania to host the "East African Community Regional Heart Institute (EACHI)".

(iii) The Republic of Uganda to host the "East African Community Regional Cancer Institute (EACCI)".

(iv) The Republic of Burundi to host the proposed "East African Community Regional Nutritional Sciences Institute (EACNSI

(v) The Republic of Rwanda to host the proposed "EAC Regional Centre of Excellence (RCE) for Health, Vaccines and Immunization Logistics in the East African Community Partner States", in collaboration with LOGIVAC Reference Centre in West Africa, WHO, GAVI, AMP (France) and KfW (Germany).

The EAC Secretariat is to undertake and effect the proposed establishment and implementation arrangements of the "Multi-National "East African Community Regional Centers of Excellence (CoE) for Skills and Tertiary Education in Higher Medical and Health Sciences Education Program" that will be hosted by the respective EAC Partner States.

END

Owora Richard Othieno,

Head of Department;

Corporate Communications and Public Affairs;

Tel: +255 784 835021;

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