As the world commemorates the World Health Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stressed that effective leadership and high-level political commitment are critical to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC)
WHO’s regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, stated this at a World Health Day briefing by the organisation in Abuja yesterday.
He said even though access to treatment and essential services had improved in the African region over the years, much more need to be done to curb the increase in non-communicable diseases, address new threats such as SARS, H5N1 and tackle epidemics like Ebola and cholera.
Moeti said there was also a need to address the challenge of antimicrobial resistance and substandard and falsified medicines.
According to him, countries must therefore strive to improve health governance and information systems to ensure better regulation, planning and accountability to their communities and partners.
Underscoring the theme of this year’s event, which is UHC, Moeti said adequate and sustained investment in health is necessary for ensuring equitable access to health services.
“Over the past 70 years, there have been major advances in health and health technology, including life-saving medicines for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, hypertension and diabetes.
“In the African Region, health outcomes have been improved through strategies such as distributing insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria, and vaccinating against the human papillomavirus which causes cervical cancer.
“Access to treatment and essential services has improved. For the first time, more than half of all people living with HIV in Africa (14 million) have access to life-saving HIV treatment. Between 2010 and 2016, new cases of malaria dropped by 20% and there were 37% fewer deaths due to malaria.
“Moreover, in 2016, the risk of developing pneumonia and meningitis reduced for nearly two thirds of children on the continent because they were vaccinated, compared to only 3% in 2010. In 2012, Africa accounted for over 50% of polio cases globally. The good news is that since August 2016, the Region has not reported a case of wild poliovirus,” he said.
He reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment to supporting member states to achieve UHC, saying, “we have developed a framework of actions to assist countries in selecting their own path towards achieving both UHC and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.