Health ministers across five African countries have adopted an eight-year strategy aimed at containing the health and socioeconomic impacts of public health emergencies.
The Regional Strategy for Health Security and Emergencies (2022–2030) was endorsed during the 72nd session of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa in Lomé, Togo. It is currently being implemented in Botswana, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Togo.
WHO, however, noted in a press statement disclosed that there are plans to expand this number significantly before the end of the year and for the programmes to be scaled up regionally over the next five years.
Globally, Africa reports the most public health emergencies, with over a hundred such events occurring every year. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the top causes of epidemics were cholera, measles, yellow fever, meningococcal meningitis, influenza, and haemorrhagic fevers, most of which are preventable through strengthening routine immunisation.
The pandemic, however, magnified the need to upgrade prevention methods, diagnostics, and treatment, which the new strategy is expected to improve. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, noted that “COVID-19 is a wake-up call for the African region to prioritise building resilient health systems capable of providing quality healthcare while coping with public health emergencies.”
The eight-year strategy will focus on strengthening mechanisms for partnerships and multisectoral collaboration, ensuring sustained and predictable investment, and repurposing resources from polio eradication and COVID-19 to support strategic investments in systems and tools for public health emergencies.
By adopting the strategy, the five countries have agreed to reach their targets by 2030 to strengthen the countries’ capacity to prevent, prepare for, detect, and respond to health emergencies, including having predictable and sustainable financing and mobilising an effective response to public health emergencies within 24 hours of detection.
“This strategy is the fruit of extensive consultations with African health ministries and a range of other institutions, technical actors and partners across the continent,” Dr Moeti added. “With their ongoing support and collaboration, it can help ensure that Africa is at the forefront of protecting the world against future pandemics.”
WHO recently launched a flagship initiative to assist countries in operationalising the newly-adopted strategy.
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