African health leaders explore ways to build resilient health systems

KIGALI, March 7 (Xinhua) -- African health leaders gathered in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, Monday for a continental forum to explore ways of building resilient health systems to respond to emerging and existing threats such as impacts of climate change.

The 5th edition of the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) 2023 is being held under the theme "Resilient Health Systems for Africa: Re-envisioning the Future Now."

Speaking at the opening, Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, the acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), called for more investment in building resilient health systems on the continent. He observed that multilateral systems have not always delivered equitably for the continent, and the COVID-19 pandemic served as a poignant reminder of Africa's ranking within the hierarchy of global health.

"While we acknowledge that African countries must also take responsibility for their role in underinvesting in their health systems, we must also recognize that African-led solutions to African challenges still require some level of global support because there can be no global health security if Africa continues to be left out," he said.

Ogwell said climate change is at the center of the disasters and health emergencies being experienced today, leading to various consequences, including economic losses.

Rwandan Minister of Health Sabin Nsanzimana said the global climate change that is affecting clean air, potable water and food security is continuously imposing serious health threats for people.

He cited four things that he said must be connected for a strong health agenda in Africa, namely the relationship between pillars of science, leadership, strong institutions and effective communication. "With these elements, we will win the battle against climate change and epidemics," he said.

World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said there is an urgent need for Africa's health agenda to prioritize climate action.

"Healthcare investment is crucial for our economy, communities, and national security, not a mere financial burden on the social sector," she said.

Ethiopian Minister of Health Lia Tadesse said the COVID-19 pandemic offered an opportunity to look at how to rebuild health systems as a whole as opposed to looking at diseases as verticals. "We just need to invest in resilient health systems," she said.

The four-day conference convened policymakers, technocrats and thought leaders to explore how African countries can foster regional cooperation by creating common guidelines, governance structures and regulatory procedures to harmonize health systems and climate adaptation and mitigation measures across the continent.

Jointly convened by NGO Amref Health Africa, Rwanda's Ministry of Health, the African Union and Africa CDC, the conference is the first global health forum held in Africa to focus on mainstreaming climate into health policymaking and vice versa, according to organizers.

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