By Sharon Atieno

African health ministers have agreed to several interventions which will shape Africa’s health agenda in the coming years.

The ministers attending the 69th session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, agreed to a 10-year strategy that aims to strengthen integrated disease surveillance and response; and mitigate the devastating impact of outbreaks such as Ebola.

“With this new blueprint for strengthening Africa’s surveillance and response to disease in hand, we hope countries will make investments needed to beef up their capacities,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“Paying now for robust surveillance will create a huge dividend in better health for Africans, not only now but in the future.”

The Member States also adopted a strategic plan to reduce the double burden of malnutrition in Africa by 2025. The priority interventions for the plan include: reinforcing legislation and food safety standards, using fiscal measures to incentivize healthy food choices and integrating essential nutrition actions in health service delivery platforms.

In addition, the delegates agreed to an all-fronts push to control the rise of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. The plan titled: the Framework on the Implementation of the Global Vector Control Response, contains 10 priorities for reducing the burden and threat of vector-borne diseases in the region through locally adapted and sustainable practices targeting mosquitoes as well as snails, black flies, sand flies, tsetse flies, ticks, fleas and copepods.

The ministerial gathering also saw Africa head into the last mile to be free of wild polio after three years with no case detected. Certification that the WHO African Region is free of wild polio is expected in early 2020.

At the margins of the session, Her Excellency Amira Elfadil, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, endorsed an ambitious action plan that aims to tackle health security challenges facing the continent. The two organizations signed an agreement outlining clear mechanisms for collaboration that will maximize existing synergies.

Another key highlight of the five-day event was the nomination of Dr. Moeti for a second term as WHO Regional Director for Africa. If appointed by the Executive Board, she promised to work with Member States and partners to address health challenges within the global WHO Transformation framework and the Thirteenth General Programme of Work 2019-2023.