Africa: WHO, AU Join Forces to Boost Health in Africa

The World Health Organization and African Union pledged Monday to join forces to work toward universal health coverage on the continent. The pledge grew out of the "Addis Ababa Call to Action," a recent agreement among AU countries to increase domestic investment in health.

At a special signing ceremony, the heads of the World Health Organization and African Union Commission committed themselves to making significant investments to improve the health of over a billion Africans.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Memorandum of Understanding he signed with the AU formalizes their cooperation in three key areas.

First, he said, they pledged to support the African Medicines Agency so people on the continent will have access to high-quality, safe and effective medicines.

Second, the WHO and AU agreed to strengthen their collaboration with the African Center for Disease Control, with a particular focus on emergency preparedness.

"The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a stark reminder that many AU countries are vulnerable to the impact of epidemics," Tedros said. "For too long, the world has invested in panic, rather than preparedness. We throw money at an outbreak, and when it is finished, we do nothing to prevent the next one."

The third key element is to implement the agreement on universal health coverage. To do that, WHO will work with government health and finance ministers to develop strong financing models, Tedros said, adding that investing in primary health clinics is one of the best ways of promoting health.

The chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, praised the  Memorandum of Understanding, calling it a concrete move toward improving health across the continent.

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