By Sharon Atieno

Though Africa bears a high burden of diseases worsened by natural disasters such as droughts and flooding, financial investment and other interventions are crucial in improving the health sector.

According to Minata Samate Cessouma, African Union (AU) Commissioner for health, humanitarian affairs and social development, African countries need to invest in the quality and quantity of health systems for the continent to achieve its development ambition as described by the AU Agenda 2063.

Minata speaking during the 72nd session of WHO Africa Regional Committee

While speaking during the 72nd session of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa in Togo, Cessouma noted that investing in health is an essential measure to improve equitable access to health care services while reducing poverty.

She urged countries to reduce the health expense borne by patients noting that at an average of 35%, it was way above the standard recommended by WHO which is 10-20%.

Additionally, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa said that high out of pocket payment is a form of inequity as it prevented people from seeking health care when they need it.

In regards, Dr. Moeti urged countries to look for other interventions of minimizing out of pocket payment such as pre-payment schemes, noting that it is critical to ensuring equal access to services for all.

She noted that inequity is a key driver of vulnerability to disease and illness and urged countries to collectively address it at the centre of Africa’s health action.

Dr. Moeti also highlighted the need to invest in primary health care (PHC), noting that it yields high returns, and promotes resilience and sustainability. “ PHC is the most inclusive, equitable and efficient way to improve service delivery and access,” she said.

Dr. Moeti during the conference
Photo credits: WHO Afro

Five priorities

Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General noted that the African Member States were facing a range of complex and diverse challenges and solving them should be aligned to five priorities. These include: promoting, providing, protecting, powering, performing and partnering for health.

He called on Member States to make an urgent paradigm shift, towards promoting health and well-being and preventing disease by addressing its root causes, and creating the conditions for health to thrive.

With regards to providing health, Dr. Ghebreyesus noted that there is need to reorient health systems towards primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage.

“We know that 90% of essential health services can be delivered at the primary health care level,” he said.

By strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience, health will be protected, Dr. Ghebreyesus stated.

Besides, to power health needs harnessing of science, research, innovation, data, and digital technologies while the fifth priority which is performing and partnering for health requires building a stronger WHO that delivers results, and is reinforced to play its leading role.

Dr. Ghebreyesus speaking at 72nd Session of WHO Regional Committee meeting for Africa
Photo captions: WHO

Meanwhile, Togo was awarded for the elimination of four neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) namely lymphatic filiarisis (elephantisis), human african trypanosomiasis ( sleeping sickness), trachoma and dracunculiasis (guinea worm).

Dr. Ghebreyesus noted that this was not only a great achievement but also a gift for future generations.

The Regional Committee is the WHO decision-making body that convenes once a year to discuss and endorse regional policies, activities and financial plans to improve people’s health and well-being. The session will run from 22 to 26 August, 2022.