News and Events

Renowned public health experts and leaders endorse a vision for an Africa health transformation programme to enhance health in the African Region

WHO and AUC take stock on joint efforts to improve collaboration

African public health leaders unite to end preventable deaths and improve the health of women, children and adolescents by 2030

First joint World Bank and WHO training course on universal health coverage for francophone countries


Renowned public health experts and leaders endorse a vision for an Africa health transformation programme to enhance health in the African Region ±

An independent advisory group (IAG), comprising renowned public health experts and leaders, has endorsed the Africa Health Transformation Programme 2015–2020: A vision for universal health coverage, proposed by Dr Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

At its inaugural meeting, held in Johannesburg 4–5 May 2015, the IAG congratulated the Regional Director for convening the IAG and for her vision, calling it a step in the right direction and a testimony to her personal commitment to change the work of WHO in the Region.

In her opening remarks, Dr Moeti observed that addressing the health challenges in the African Region required rethinking the way the WHO Secretariat approaches the planning and implementation of health programmes and services in support of Member States. It is expected that the implementation of the transformation programme will address the unacceptable inequities and injustices in the Region’s health development.

“We are taking a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the future for Africa, to strengthen health and economic security globally, and to deliver on the goals for a new era of sustainable development”, said Dr Moeti.

 

The WHO Regional Office for Africa will lead the transformation in health and well-being based on five interrelated and overlapping priorities:

  • Improving health security;
  • Strengthening national health systems;
  • Sustaining focus on health-related SDGs;
  • Addressing the social determinants of health; and
  • Transforming the WHO Regional Office for Africa into a responsive and results-driven organization.

The Regional Director told the participants that the strategy is bold and ambitious, but that it can be delivered. “We will deliver on our promise through our shared values of equity, dignity, transparency, integrity, professionalism and openness”, she added.

It was highlighted that the growing recognition of health as critical to the SDGs, the dividends of unprecedented economic growth, political stability and the birth of a new middle class, among other factors, could be translated into tangible human development benefits that can enable Africa to contribute to global health and economic security worldwide.

The IAG was set up by Dr Matshidiso Moeti to provide strategic and policy advice aimed at strengthening the work of WHO in the African Region to make better health a reality for people.


WHO and AUC take stock on joint efforts to improve collaboration ±

High-ranking officials from the African Union Commission (AUC) and WHO met in Brazzaville on 30 June to review their collaborative efforts to improve the health of people in Africa.

Among the issues discussed were the progress made so far in the WHO-AUC partnership; the establishment of the African Centre for Disease Control (African CDC) and ways of improving collaboration between it and WHO. The meeting also deliberated on how far African countries have implemented the agreed actions during the first AUC-WHO ministerial conference held in Luanda, Angola in April 2014.

 

Welcoming the delegates, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, underscored the strategic importance of the WHO-AUC partnership. She noted that the comparative advantage of the two organizations, their convening powers and their roles as secretariats of Member States can help position health as a central development theme on the continent, particularly in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.

“It is particularly important that we continue to explore how best we can more effectively synergize the work of our two institutions for the betterment of our people in Africa. I am talking about the political mandate of the AUC and the technical mandate of WHO and how best they can be used together in a complementary and synergistic manner”, said Dr Moeti.

The Regional Director commended the AUC for its advocacy and mobilization of nearly 1 000 volunteers in response to the Ebola virus disease outbreak.

In his remarks, Dr Mustapha Kaloko, the AUC Commissioner for Social Affairs, highlighted some of the achievements of the AUC-WHO partnership during the past three years, including the re-establishment of a WHO Liaison Office to the AUC, a joint ministerial meeting in Angola and the development of a joint work plan. He said although the collaboration is going well, both parties could further strengthen it by having a common position before consulting Member States on matters of mutual interest such as the establishment of the African CDC. Dr Kaloko further stressed the need for the AUC and WHO to work together to respond to emergencies as well as to coordinate the continent in speaking with one voice at international fora such as the World Health Assembly.

The two-day bilateral meeting agreed on a revised joint work plan for the period 2015–2016, including preparations for the next joint ministerial meeting which is expected to take place in Tunis, Tunisia in April 2016.


African public health leaders unite to end preventable deaths and improve the health of women, children and adolescents by 2030 ±

Hundreds of leaders and public health experts from across Africa gathered, 6–7 May, to identify game-changing interventions to accelerate progress towards improving the lives of millions of women, children and adolescents. This consultation provided a roadmap – an updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health – to end preventable deaths of women, newborns, children and adolescents by 2030, which will be launched alongside the new SDGs in September. This revised strategy builds on the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, launched in 2010 by the United Nations Secretary-General.

“Over the last two decades, the world has made unprecedented progress in advancing women’s and children’s health. In 2013, 6.4 million fewer children died than in 1990, and in this same timeframe, deaths of women during pregnancy and childbirth were cut by almost half”, said Graça Machel, Chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH). “African leaders have been at the forefront of these efforts, as demonstrated by the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality in Africa and the many commitments made to the original global strategy.”

Despite immense progress, the scale of the problem remains vast. As of 2013, 17 000 children under the age of five still die every day. Moreover, approximately 225 million women who want to prevent or delay pregnancy are not using modern contraceptives and each hour, 33 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Over half of maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa alone. To reach the global goals for women’s and children’s health by 2030, it is estimated that an additional US$ 5.24 is needed per person per year. Calls for increased funding stress the need for investments to be predictable and sustainable, as well as increasingly efficient.

“Healthy women and children are the bedrock of stable, productive societies”, said Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health of the Republic of South Africa. “Ensuring the health of every woman, child and adolescent will only become more urgent as the next generation grows. We are already grappling with the largest population of young people in history, and it is projected that in 35 years, Africa will be home to over a third of the world’s youth. Imagine if all of these young women and men could lead healthy lives and raise healthier families.”

This meeting – co-hosted by the South African National Department of Health and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child movement, with support from PMNCH and WHO – is part of a broad consultative process to update the original global strategy. It will focus on new and targeted solutions to address societal and structural barriers to health, such as education, legal entitlements for women and children, and nutrition. Given demographic shifts in Africa, the consultation will have a large youth component.


First joint World Bank and WHO training course on universal health coverage for francophone countries ±

Universal health coverage is at the centre of health system reform efforts of many low- and middle-income countries. There has been much demand for UHC and health financing training courses, and both the World Bank and the World Health Organization have been providing training events in English. There is equally strong demand in numerous francophone countries. In response, the World Bank and World Health Organization have jointly organized their first WB-WHO course on UHC for francophone countries. The course objectives were to enhance country knowledge, skills and technical capacities as well as to support francophone counterparts in their UHC reform process.

The course took place in Dakar, Senegal, from 20–25 April. It attracted 113 participants and 16 country teams (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Haiti, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal). Each country team consisted of six to eight members, and included high-level representatives from ministries of health, finance, labour, planning and/or social affairs and health insurance agencies. World Bank task team leaders and WHO country health systems officers also participated. Two guest speakers from Burundi and Gabon joined to share their experiences, as well as observers from the Agence Française de Développement, German BACKUP Initiative and Japan International Cooperation Association who also provided financial support for the course, which is gratefully acknowledged.

The five-day course consisted the following sessions: an overview of the World Bank’s flagship approach to UHC; definition and objectives of UHC; the health financing situation in francophone countries; revenue collection; fiscal space; pooling; coverage of the informal sector; strategic purchasing; provider payment mechanisms; results-based financing; benefit package design; governance; human resources; monitoring UHC progress; and access to drugs.

Theme focused group work on community-based health insurance, social health insurance and “free health-care policies” allowed for further in-depth discussion. These sessions were complemented by group work within country teams to further reflect on individual country health financing strategies and outline proposals for health financing policy reforms to promote in their own country setting.

The course was highly appreciated with participants valuing the opportunity for learning and sharing experiences from across francophone countries. The Minister of Health from Madagascar, Professor Andriamanarivo, reported, “the course was extremely helpful and timely for Madagascar as we are initiating the formulation of a health financing strategy this month”. Dr Sossou, Deputy General Secretary of the Ministry of Health from Benin, stated, “beyond theoretical knowledge, the training course was an opportunity to leverage other countries’ experiences. Capitalizing is essential for Benin as we move on adjusting our health financing strategy before it gets approved by the Council of Ministers later this year”.

Moreover, the joint organization of the course sends out a powerful message with respect to a harmonized approach towards UHC by both the World Bank and WHO. The course has been a valuable experience and there is strong interest both among country participants as well as partners to continue and repeat this type of event. Both organizations are engaged to continue to collaborate by supporting countries in capacity building, evaluating the progress of the implementation of UHC, facilitating innovation and learning-by-doing at country level and sharing and disseminating best practices. The World Bank and WHO will try to expand such joint initiatives.

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