Nairobi, Kenya: September 1, 2014 - Health care remains a huge concern for African states, indicating an urgent need for governments to prioritize access to quality health care, and for private players to partner with public institutions in advancing the continent’s health agenda.
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa demonstrates the weakness and vulnerability of African health systems and the underlying social and economic challenges.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 3,069 cases with 1,552 deaths (52% fatality rate) had been reported by August 29, with most of the cases centred in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and with Nigeria reporting a handful of cases and deaths. Over 120 health workers have lost their lives, and twice that number have been infected, reflecting the poor conditions under which they work. More than anything else, the Ebola outbreak demonstrates what ails health in Africa – inadequate knowledge about prevention in communities, low levels of hygiene, and health systems that do not have the basic facilities to provide the care and support that communities need.
Earlier in the month, Amref Health Africa convened a stakeholders’ roundtable discussion on the role of public-private partnerships in driving the health agenda in Africa. Like the roundtable meeting, the upcoming Amref Health Africa International Conference to be held in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2014, in conjunction with the WHO, will discuss the use of regional economic communities as drivers of development in health care, pharmaceutical and technology transfer, and financing of health care systems, among other issues.
“A comprehensive approach is required to overcome barriers in developing the region’s health systems. Private players will be crucial in overcoming health challenges and reducing prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases in Africa,” said Dr Teguest Guerma, Amref Health Africa Director General.
A key element of the conference will be the use of innovation and technology in educating citizens on preventable diseases, given that information is essential in managing health challenges.
Besides the current Ebola outbreak, HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis continue to be major causes of ill health. Amref Health Africa seeks to challenge governments and the private sector to partner in the surveillance and management of these diseases, thereby reducing their impact on African communities.
At the close of 2013, it is estimated that 35 million people were living with HIV, with 11.7 million people having access to antiretroviral therapy in low-and middle-income countries. At the same time, statistics show that over half a million (627, 000) people die from malaria each year, mostly children younger than five years old, with 90 per cent of all malaria deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr Guerma called on corporates to help governments provide quality health care. She announced that the upcoming conference will be attended by health leaders and experts in global, regional and national health levels. The interactive meeting will provide delegates with a forum to tackle issues related to reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, environmental and water resource management, new and emerging health priorities, strengthening of health systems as well as innovation, technology and health.
Keynote speakers include Dr Tim Evans, Director of Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank; Dr Julitta Onabanjo, Regional Director of UNFPA (Eastern and Southern Africa); and Dr Mustapha Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union.
“Millions of Africans still suffer from diseases that are relatively simple to prevent or treat. In addition, this affects the socio-economic development of African countries. For example, malaria costs an estimated $12 billion in lost productivity in Africa,” said Dr John Nduba, Director of Health Programme Development at Amref Health Africa.
Amref Health Africa says that to meet the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (4, 5, 6) on health, an effective and well-functioning health system – at local, regional and national levels – and sufficient resources to provide primary health care are essential. Prioritizing basic health care that is accessible to all citizens, including those who are marginalized, vulnerable and hard-to-reach, will be a welcome reprieve in tackling health challenges in Africa.
For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Amref Health Africa in Canada
+1 (416) 961-6981 (office)
+1 (647) 771-5815 (mobile)