By Minnie Karanja
Rwanda will this Month host the first ever Africa Health Forum organized by the World Health Organization African Region. The forum themed: Putting people first: The Road to Universal Health Coverage in Africa will take place from 27 to 28 June at the Kigali Convention Centre.
The World Health Organization African Region, as the technical agency and custodian of public health, seeks to galvanize political commitment, foster collaboration and align strategic priorities in advancing the health agenda in the Region, especially around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The forum will highlight the importance of addressing the challenges and opportunities for effective health services delivery and policy priorities.
Speaking to the New Times ahead of the Forum, Dr Olushayo Olu, WHO Country Representative for Rwanda said that the Forum, which is going to be open to the public, is an important platform to discuss the public health agenda in Africa with all relevant stakeholders, and comes at a crucial time when the continent is in the early stages of implementing the SDGs.
“Prior to this (Africa Health Forum), we only had one platform: the Regional Committee, to discuss public health for Africa and it was strictly for member states. We therefore decided to create this inclusive platform so that all relevant stakeholders can participate in discussions about public health in Africa. We have invited academia, the private sector, civil society and journalists, among others, to be part of these discussions. It is imperative for all relevant stakeholders to discuss what really needs to be done to improve healthcare delivery and for Africa to achieve the SDGs targets. We believe that it is strategic partnerships, effective engagement and coordinated joint action that will ultimately result in effectively addressing the urgent and ever changing health needs of people living on the African continent,” added Dr Olu.
The Africa Health Forum is further a unique opportunity to strengthen collaboration between WHO and its stakeholders on Africa’s health agenda. Specifically, it will facilitate engagement with all partners to kick start exciting new partnerships for improving the health of the African people.
Among the topics to be addressed during the forum is how to improve health security, progress towards equity and Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and the unfinished agenda of communicable diseases while exploring the new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets, and tackling social and economic determinants of health on the African continent. It is expected that the end of the meeting a call to action will be prepared with actionable points on how to deliver quality healthcare in Africa.
Rwanda was strategically selected to host the Forum given its excellent records in improving its health system and achieving all the health related MDGs. Rwanda is a good example of how a country can overcome challenges and obstacles to improve the socio-economic well-being of citizens. With no reliable healthcare system in 1994, after the genocide against the Tutsi, the country has come a long way in building a decent healthcare system for its people.
“Rwanda is one of the few African countries with 90% coverage in all Districts for immunization and access to critical health services including TB treatment and access to ARVs for HIV patients. Within a very short period of 23 years, Rwanda has built a working health system in which even the poor and disadvantaged have access to quality medical care through the Community Based Health Insurance. Rwanda is a good example for other African countries to learn from and understand the context in which home grown solutions can be used to address public health and deliver quality healthcare to citizens,” said Dr Olu.
WHO WILL PARTICIPATE?
WHO will not only reach out to its traditional partners, but also more importantly, the Forum will include new regional and global health players. Participants will include:
- African leaders
- Ministers of Health and Finance
- UN Agencies
- Intergovernmental agencies
- Private sector
- Academic institutions
- Civil society organization
- Philanthropic foundations
- Youth Organizations
- An agreed roadmap to deliver on Commitments for Action made by the Forum
- Showcase progress and best practices on key challenges and opportunities for Africa in delivering UHC
- Establish a biennium platform to engage key stakeholders on common strategies to achieve the SDGs