The 72nd annual session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa ended on Friday, August 26, 2022. The session, which opened on Monday, August 22, brought together 400 delegates in person and 300 delegates remotely, from the 47 member countries of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa. Committed to a coordinated regional health strategy, the Togolese Republic was fully mobilized alongside the WHO Regional Committee for Africa and the Brazzaville Foundation.
This session allowed to initiate discussions and to finalize the work of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa on the health strategy to be adopted, especially in the fight against serious non-communicable diseases, as well as on the elimination and eradication of tropical and vector-borne diseases on the African continent. Also on the agenda was the strengthening of the implementation of the global action plan for mental health and protection against associated financial risks, with the objective of establishing universal health coverage and laying the foundations for a dedicated regional framework.
Recognizing the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fragile health systems, the Ministers of Health adopted a new regional strategy, called PEN-PLUS, to effectively address serious non-communicable diseases in primary health care referral centers. In adopting this strategy, Member States agreed to achieve 12 targets by 2030 that will strengthen their capacity to prevent, prepare for, detect, and respond to health emergencies. For example, 80% of member states must have predictable and sustainable funding for health security, 90% must mobilize an effective response to public health emergencies within 24 hours of detection, and all countries must have 80% of health districts with functioning service delivery and quality improvement programs.
A campaign to raise awareness and fight against sickle cell disease was also conducted during this session. According to WHO, one thousand children are born with sickle cell disease every day in Africa, making it the most prevalent genetic disease on the continent. Sickle cell disease is also the cause of 8,403 deaths recorded in 2019, an increase of 26% since 2000.
The work of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa was also devoted to the fight against substandard falsified medicines (MFQI), in partnership with the Brazzaville Foundation. Currently, only 10% to 30% of medicines prescribed and used on the African continent are manufactured locally (McKinsey, 2020). Finding ways to effectively combat this threat to public health and substantially improve patient access to quality medicines and health care were among the issues discussed by stakeholders during the side event, " Tackling Killer Drugs in Africa: A Collaborative and Integrated Approach ," organized by the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene of the Togolese Republic, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Brazzaville Foundation, to invite IDL member ministers to optimize the coordination of the fight against MFQI at the continental level and to make recommendations in this sense. This is a continuation of the Lomé Initiative launched in January 2020, during which six African Heads of State and Government (Congo, Ghana, Niger, Uganda, Senegal, and Togo) signed a political declaration committing to fight against the trafficking of MFQI.
Finally, an award from WHO and the Global Alliance for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases was also presented to Togo, honoring the country for the eradication of at least four tropical diseases in the country in recent years - dracunculiasis (or Guinea worm disease), lymphatic filariasis, human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) or sleeping sickness and trachoma.
As H.E. Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, President of the Togolese Republic, reminded us during his speech at the opening ceremony of this 72nd session, it is essential to " act to guarantee access to quality health care for all, everywhere and at all times. To act to offer social protection and universal coverage to our fellow citizens. And finally, to act to eradicate the phenomenon of counterfeit and poor-quality medicines. " He also stressed that " health is a priority of social cohesion that the Togolese government has placed at the heart of its development policy. One of the ambitions of the government's roadmap to 2025 is indeed to provide identity and guarantee health coverage and access to basic social services to all”. He also urged all African countries to join the Lomé initiative.
For his part, Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, Director General of WHO, welcomed the progress made during this session: " WHO is working on the ground, and through our headquarters and country and regional offices, to respond to prevent, detect and control outbreaks, to treat malnutrition and to provide essential health services and medicines. (...). We have made significant progress, but we have more much more to do. I assure you of my complete personal commitment to this issue and also to accountability. "
The full speech of Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, Director General of WHO is available here .
Richard Amalvy, Executive Director of the Brazzaville Foundation, praised the full mobilization of stakeholders during this sequence: " The Foundation is proud to stand alongside the Republic of Togo and the World Health Organization for two years. The commitments made during the Lomé Initiative have brought together the six signatory countries in a constant struggle to serve the people of the African continent. Faithful to the vision of the President of the Togolese Republic, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, we call on the other countries of the African Union to join us in eliminating this scourge together. "
Presidency of Togo
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