Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General
Brazzaville, Congo – With 44% of deaths among women worldwide occurring in the World Health Organization (WHO) African Region, African Health Ministers have agreed on measures aimed at addressing the issue as well as HIV, eHealth, traditional medicine and the health of elderly people.
PANA reported Monday that Ministers of Health from the 47 Member States of the WHO in the African Region, who ended their 63rd session in Brazzaville, Congo, over the weekend, also adopted resolutions endorsing the report on the Rules of Procedure of the Regional Committee and a regional strategy on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The Ministers observed that high rate of deaths among women in the African Region occur mainly due to communicable diseases, pregnancy-or childbirth-related complications and nutritional deficiencies.
They therefore urged countries to, among others, give priority to women in their development agendas, remove barriers to women’s access to financial resources, property and health care and empower women through girl education.
The measures stem from a report of the Commission on Women’s Health in the African Region, entitled “Addressing the Challenge of Women’s Health in Africa,” that highlights the need for a life-course approach to achieve rapid and sustainable improvements in women’s physical, mental and social well-being.
Regarding the health of elderly people, the Ministers noted with deep concern that health systems in the Region have not been prepared to respond to the needs of the rapidly ageing population.
To redress this, the Ministers adopted a resolution urging countries to prioritise and put measures in place that, among others: promote healthy ageing at every stage of a person’s life course; address the specific health problems related to the ageing of women and men; protect the elderly in emergency situations and address their nutritional needs in order to ensure their food security.
The Ministers noted that a significant proportion of the population in the African Region use traditional medicine for their health care needs, and therefore endorsed a report and a resolution to enhance the role of Traditional Medicine in health systems.
Member States are expected to, among others, ensure that traditional medicine products are safe, affordable and accessible; protect intellectual property rights with a view to preserving traditional medicine knowledge and resources; strengthen human resources capacity for development of traditional medicine; promote and organise large-scale cultivation and conservation of well-researched medicinal plants and enhance collaboration among stakeholders in various sectors.
Also, efforts to rid the African Region of NTDs received a significant boost, with the adoption of a resolution and a regional NTD strategy.
The resolution called on countries to include NTDs in the post-2015 national development agenda, ensure adequate resources and intensify actions against NTDs at all levels. The need for countries to provide leadership in establishing and strengthening integrated national NTD programmes along with coordinating mechanisms was emphasised.
The Health Ministers also adopted a resolution on HIV calling on countries to adapt their national antiretroviral therapy (ART) guidelines to WHO’s new guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs for HIV prevention and control.
The new WHO guidelines, published in June this year, recommended, among others, early treatment for people living with HIV and the promotion of treatment for HIV-infected children under five years of age as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women.
In adopting the resolution, the Ministers urged countries to invest more in HIV response by mobilising adequate domestic and international resources and improve procurement and supply of drugs and other commodities.
They also called on countries to decentralise HIV services, and to integrate and link HIV services with sexual and reproductive health, child health, tuberculosis and other related services.
The five-day meeting was attended by Health Ministers (or their representatives), senior WHO officials including WHO Director-General Margaret Chan; WHO Regional Director for Africa Luis G. Sambo; representatives of bilateral and multilateral organisations including IGOs, NGOs and Funds and Programmes of the UN System as well as other institutions and organisations working to improve the health situation Africa.
The 64th session of the Regional Committee is expected to be held in Cotonou, Benin, in 2014.