Here is our topic for May and June 2016.
The next 69 World Health Assembly (WHA) will start next week, 23 – 28 May, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland. Member states must be now be in advanced stages of preparing for this annual event and in one of our previous discussions we addressed the ideal approaches for preparing for the WHA and other international meetings. I have looked at the agenda for the 69 WHA and want to draw the following Agenda items to the special attention of the African delegations.
1. Agenda 11 on WHO Reform: WHO has gone through tough times in the last few years and there are voices that are calling for the role of WHO downgraded. Yet without a strong global organization which brings together all member states with equal voice around one table to address global health matters, global health and health security will be at increased risk. We need to support and strengthen WHO. The funding of WHO needs to be increased but also the monitoring of performance and accountability by WHO by member states should increase. Elections for the new Director General of WHO are around the corner and it is high time that an African occupied this position.
2. Agenda 12.6 on Control and Prevention of Non-communicable diseases (NCDs): Africais experiencing an explosion of NCDs. Diabetes mellitus, cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental health need to be prevented through aggressive health promotion programs as most of them are life style related.
3. Agenda 13 on Health through the life course including a review of MDGs and embracing the SDGs through Multisectoral action. This will call for stronger health leadership and governance which is presently taken for granted and not given the high priority that it needs. Without strong leadership and governance of health at country, regional and global level, we will not achieve our goals.
4. Agenda 14 on Preparedness, Surveillance and Response to infectious diseases and implementation of the International Health Regulations. The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa last year showed that a weak health system in any corner of the world is a health security risk for the whole world. The International Health Regulations adopted by the WHA some five years ago remain unimplemented in most countries. Independent Assessment of the status of implementation of these in our countries should become routine if we are to assure national and global health security. Integrated Primary Health Care systems owned and driven by communities is the way forward. To establish and sustain these calls once againfor strong health leadership and governance.
5. Agenda 15 on Communicable Diseases especially HIV which is still a major health challenge in Africa despite the achievements that have so far been scored in its control. Access to vaccines is a pillar of disease prevention and we should be active in discussing the Global Vaccine Plan. Another important issue is Anti-microbial resistance. Misuse of anti-microbialagents in many of our countries is a major issue due to proliferation of unlicensed vendors and informal health
6. Agenda 16 on Health systems especially Health Workforce and Services. Skilled and supported health workers are the essential vehicle for delivery of integrated people centered services and yet there are reports from WHO that African health workforce densities have not changed over the last ten years. Indeed in 22 African countries the densities have deteriorated in spite of aggressive advocacy. It is therefore gratifying that a new Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health will be tabled for adoption by the 69 WHA. There will also be discussions of the level of implementation of the WHO Code on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel and I hope that more countries in Africa will have submitted reports this time round.
I urge African delegations to the 69 WHA to look out for opportunities to share on this topic and to learn from each other on how to improve HRH programs in the countries. This once again calls for strong leadership at country level. Tools and instruments for scaling up education and training and retention of health workers where they are most needed are available and are waiting for interested leaders to apply them. Under agenda 16 is another important item on the WHO Strategy on Research for Health. Without effective and relevant research programs in our health systems, we will not have the intelligence for direction, focus and cannot learn how to improve our performance. I urge all delegations to participate in this agenda item and go back home with commitment to prioritize research for health.
Your comments are welcome and I wish you all fruitful deliberations at the 69 WHA and safe travel.