Health Ministers and representatives from African countries gathered this week for the annual World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa voiced concern over the impact of COVID-19 and stressed that the pandemic was a poignant reminder for countries to bolster health systems.
The Seventieth session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa – the Organization’s decision-making body – which was held virtually for the first time due to COVID-19 also celebrated Africa’s historic milestone in eradicating wild poliovirus. More than 500 participants, including Ministers of Health and officials from 47 Member States as well as representatives from United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, academia and development partners attended the meeting.
Since Africa confirmed its first COVID-19 cases in February the continent has recorded more than 1.1 million cases. African governments have reinforced response measures, building on the early steps such as enhanced surveillance, detection and movement restrictions taken even before the virus hit the continent.
“This virus has not only affected our health, but also tested our way of living, societal norms and economies at large. In Africa we quickly felt the impact of the pandemic due to our weak health systems coupled with the highest disease burden in the world,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali said.
To minimize the impact of the pandemic, Prime Minister Abiy called for improved COVID-19 response coordination, a common voice to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and treatment, and stronger health systems and public health emergency preparedness and response.
“COVID-19 has taught as that strong health systems are a matter of national security and survival,” he said.
Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth pointed out that timely and decisive response was critical to his country’s success in bringing down COVID-19 infections in five weeks after the first case was confirmed.
“It is crucial to have an efficient health system at a time when we are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Prime Minister Jugnauth. “The government continues to invest significantly in the health sector for both present and future generations.”
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